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September 24, 2018

New laboratory cuts time to get HIV results

CAS Health Rashid Aman during the East Africa Regional Physiotherapy Scientific Conference in Nairobi on September 5,2018.
Photo/HEPHZIBAR BUKASU.
CAS Health Rashid Aman during the East Africa Regional Physiotherapy Scientific Conference in Nairobi on September 5,2018. Photo/HEPHZIBAR BUKASU.

The Sh300 million state-of-the-art HIV testing laboratory unveiled by the government last month at Kemri headquarters in Nairobi has reduced the time taken to take samples and analyse results.

This is has gone a long way in boosting the war on HIV-Aids.

A followup on the operation of the lab by the Star reveals that the facility releases the results after five days. Previously, the tests were released after 11 days to two weeks.

Kemri chief research officer Matilu Mwau said the Cobass 8800 machine launched by Health CAS Rashid Aman has the capacity to operate 24 hours nonstop.

“It is not like the one stationed in Kisumu, which only works eight hours a day,” he said.

Mwau said they are able to dispense 3,000 test results a day.

He said before the machine was introduced, the institute used to receive over 3,500 samples but only processed 2,000 a day. This used to leave a backlog of 1,500 samples.

However, with the efficiency of the test lab, the institute is battling the lack of test kits to ensure smooth operations. “Lacking test kits or reagents is a challenge because the volumes of samples we are processing have increased. We are adjusting in this regard but it’s taking time,” Mwau, who is also the director of Centre for Infectious and Parasitic Disease Control Research, said.

During the launch of the machine, he had said more than 400,000 Kenyans do not know their HIV status and the new equipment would help address this.

The new lab adds on the HIV self-testing kits which are vended at Sh750. As of May 2017, there were only 20 private pharmacies countrywide licensed to sell the kits.

Mwau said the Swiss company, Roche Diagnostics, that has installed the machine has been doing maintenance of the lab besides training the staff.

There are two such machines in South Africa and Kenya, two in each country, bringing the total four machines in Africa.

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