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  HIV viral load test halted in lack of reagents  
 

ARJUN POUDEL

KATHMANDU, Feb 15: The HIV viral load test at the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) in Teku has stopped since September after the laboratory ran out of essential reagents.

The NPHL is the only laboratory in the country to conduct viral load test that determines the density of virus in blood to measure the severity of viral infections. The Nepal office of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) provides the essential reagents to the NPHL buying them with the Global Fund´s Round Seven Assistance to Nepal for control of HIV/AIDS.

"We have not got essential kits to examine blood of the HIV patients," Director of the NPHL Dr Geeta Shakya said. Shakya said the NPHL is currently making do with just the CD 4 count test, also available in district hospitals across the country, in lack of viral load test.

"We have to conduct viral load test to see whether or not antiretroviral therapy (ART) is working or in case of complications in patients,” Shakya explained. “We don´t have to conduct the test in normal conditions but have to do it if the patients enrolling for ART face problems,” she added.

Director of the National Center for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC) Dr Krishna Kumar Rai said UNDP has to provide the reagents to the NPHL as the organization receives grant from the Global Fund. Sabita Acharya, UNDP´s official of the Global Fund unit, couldn´t be reached for comments despite repeated attempts.

Officials at the NPHL said dozens of patients coming for the viral load test have to return every day without knowing the level of virus in their body. Doctors also prescribe ART to patients according to the virus level shown by the viral load test. "We prescribe drugs to the patients if the virus level is high," Dr Basudev Pandey of the Sukra Raj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital said.

Pandey said viral load test is required to monitor the status of HIV disease, to guide recommendations for therapy, and to predict the future course of HIV. “Since we cannot do the viral load test now, we only conduct the CD-4 count and start giving drugs to those with low CD-4," he added

 
Published on 2011-02-15 07:00:06
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HIV Viral Load Test Halted In Lack Of Reagents
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