Babies with HIV are more likely to survive if they begin treatment before they are three months old.1 How can we get these infants what they need, when they need it?
The challenge: HIV testing for the most vulnerable
Seventy percent of the world’s HIV-positive victims live in Sub-Saharan Africa, a vast region with inadequate infrastructure and healthcare. Unfortunately, many of these HIV carriers are not:
- Returning for their test results
- Getting tested in the first place
- Seeking treatment
Diagnosis is as essential to HIV/AIDS management as medicine. The first step to fighting this pandemic is to make sure people know their HIV status.
The obstacles of HIV diagnosis
Put yourself in the shoes of a young HIV-positive mother. She is scared the virus was passed on to her newborn, but she does not know for sure.
Most HIV testing facilities are in major cities. She would have to travel a long way, starting out from a rural area with inadequate roads. Her biggest worry is that if she gets the bad news, how will she pay for treatment?
With every passing day, the immune systems of babies with HIV weaken. Diagnosing them early could save their lives.
We need to encourage her to make the journey—both physically and emotionally.
What we are doing: Bravely facing HIV diagnosis together
The Global Access Program is the Roche Group’s proactive response to an enormous humanitarian challenge. Since its inception in 2014, the programme has increased access to HIV viral load tests at substantially reduced prices in sub-Saharan Africa and countries where the disease burden is highest. The Global Access Program focuses on the complete continuum of care, from testing to monitoring and education, and works to optimise efforts on a regional basis
To help overcome the hurdles preventing babies from getting diagnosed, was one of the reasons why we started the Global Access Program. We developed new diagnostics methods for gathering and transporting blood samples in order to test as many as possible.
For example, blood samples can be taken at a local healthcare centre and dried on a card. Because there is no need for refrigeration, and a small amount of blood is enough, they can be sent through the post for HIV testing.
We also introduced text message (SMS) technology, making it easier to send test results back to rural healthcare facilities.
Improved communication means patients in rural areas get answers quickly. Less travel means those who need it are more likely to return for treatment. Even in the remotest areas of southern Africa, HIV diagnosis and care is now much simpler.
Through the Global Access Program, more than 100 lab technicians across Sub-Saharan Africa are trained every year at our Roche Scientific Campus and partner training facilities in South Africa. We have also added more programmes to train healthcare workers in all areas of laboratory medicine.
The impact of our work: Sustainable treatment
In 2014 we collaborated with other organisations to launch the Global Access Programme (GAP). The GAP supports the 90-90-90 UNAIDS goal, expanding access to sustainable diagnostic testing for countries hardest hit by HIV.
- Since 2008, we have tested over 9,000,000 infants for HIV.
- Over 26,000,000 patients on HIV/AIDS therapy are being monitored for viral levels to determine if treatment is working or if it needs to be altered
- Over 1,800 healthcare professionals have been trained on diagnostic testing
- There are a lower number of HIV-infected infants due to having access to diagnosis at birth. For example, in South Africa.
- Around 145 molecular testing centres have been established, including several national testing labs in South Africa, Latin America, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.
Our partners since 2014 are:
- UNAIDS (the joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS)
- Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)
- President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)
- Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB & Malaria.
Together, we have continued to focus on sustainable access for diagnostics in countries with the greatest disease burden and the least resources.
Since the inception of the Global Access Program in 2014, we were able to test over 7 million babies for HIV. That’s giving a lot more children a shot at life.
- The gap report. Geneva: Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS; 2014. Available from: http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/campaigns/2014/2014gapreport/gapreport [cited 2016 Mar 15].