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 people living with HIV globally 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 worries are that if she gets the bad news, will her baby survive and how will she pay for the life saving 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 sample collection and transportation, testing, result delivery 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 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. Secondly, we have developed a mobile application to harness the adoption of mobile technology to deliver results directly back to the infant’s care giver.

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 a number of international organisations to launch the Global Access Program (GAP). aimed at strengthening local healthcare capacity and increasing access to affordable diagnostic tools in resource-limited settings. Since its inception, the program has expanded substantially in menu and geographic footprint to provide increased access to diagnostics for other high burden diseases - MTB, HBV/HCV and HPV/ cervical cancer - to meet the challenges facing healthcare systems. 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.

Encouraging Statistics:

  • Since 2008, Roche’s diagnostic solutions have been used to test 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 is a lower number of HIV-infected infants due to having access to diagnosis at birth.
  • 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, Roche diagnostic solutions have been used to test over 9 million babies for HIV. That’s giving a lot more children a shot at living a long, happy, and healthy life.

References

  1. 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].

Tags: Society, Patients, Access to healthcare