Lack of Equipment Delays Administration of HIV Treatment

1954 Views Luweero, Uganda

In short
Steven Sseruyange the Chairperson of Youths Living with HIV, says the delay to conduct the tests takes a huge toll on the life of people who visit medical centers when they are frail and need quick help.

The absence of medical equipment to conduct CD4 count and viral load in various health centers in Luweero district has crippled HIV treatment. More than 30 health centers in Luweero district offer Anti-Retro Viral Therapy to 13,900 people living with HIV so as to suppress the virus in their bodies.

Before enrolling the patients on ARVs, health workers conduct CD4 count- a lab test that measures the number of CD4 cells in the blood sample. The medics also conduct the viral load test to establish the amount of HIV in the blood sample.  
Pima machine and Hi Tech Viral load machines are used to conduct the CD4 count and Viral loads respectively. Hi Tech Viral load machine is located at the Central Public Health Laboratory in Kampala.
Establishing the CD4 count and Viral loads are key in determining the time of treatment administered to the patient. Abdullah Zziwa Musisi, the Coordinator of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Luweero district, says health center IIIs in the district lack the necessary machines to conduct the CD4 count and viral load.
He says currently medics at Health IIIs pick samples from patients and dispatch them to selected Health Center IVs for the CD4 count. According to Zziwa, patients have to wait for a week to get their CD4 count results and another two weeks to wait for the viral load test results.   
Zziwa says during this time, medical workers are unable to take a decision. He also says the transportation of the samples compromises their quality.

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Steven Sseruyange the Chairperson of Youths Living with HIV, says the delay to conduct the tests takes a huge toll on the life of people who visit medical centers when they are frail and need quick help.

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Margaret Nalukenge, the Medical Officer in Charge of Elimination of Mother To Child Transmission at Luweero Health Center IV, says although they have the Pima machine many people lack money for transport to conduct the CD4 count tests.

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An in charge of one of the Health Center IV told URN on condition of anonymity, says they sent blood samples to the Central Public Health Laboratory in November 2016 for the viral load tests but only received the results in February 2017, which complicated the administration of drugs to the affected persons. 

Both Persons Living With HIV and medical workers are demanding that government distributes pima machines across all health center III and viral load machines in Health Center IVs for quick tests and administration of drugs.

Only five Health centers in Luweero have CD4 Pima machine. These include Luweero Health Center 1V, Nyimbwa Health Center IV, Kalagala Health Center 1V, Makulubita Health Center 111 and Bamunanika Health Center 111.  
Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended viral load as the standard tool for monitoring patients on HIV treatment, from the widely available CD4 testing for monitoring immunity. 

Edward Kalyesuubulwa, the Luweero District HIV Focal Person explains that they have deployed two men who collect the blood samples on a weekly basis and transport them in the best way possible for screening.

He however, says that they have asked for more Pima machines from Ministry of Health and partners to ensure they are spread across health Center 111s to minimize delays and other risks. Kalyesuubula says their efforts to secure a viral load machine are hampered by the absence of a district hospital.

Luweero district has recorded an upsurge of HIV Prevalence from 6.4% to 8.4 %, according to district health Statistics for 2016. The District Health Report reveals that at least 38,384 persons are living with HIV and only 25,284 know their status. 

At least 742 out 21,040 mothers who attended antenatal care tested HIV positive and were enrolled on Elimination of Mother To Child Transmission programme in the year.


About the author

Brian Luwaga
Since Brian Luwaga joined Uganda Radio Network in 2011, he is still amazed how, "URN is a place that gives journalists a chance to enhance their skills . It gives a journalist an opportunity to adopt and master various aspects of journalism that include radio broadcast, social media, photography and television production."

A practicing journalist since 2009, first with Star FM, Luwaga has always been keen to write about the concerns of the "common person." Based for much of his career in Luweero, Luwaga takes it as a compliment if politicians complain that his reporting is too harsh.

In his journalism, Luwaga likes to merge the past with the present. He believes you cannot understand what is happening now, if you do not have a grounding in the past. Brian Luwaga is the Luweero URN bureau chief. Nakasongola, Nakaseke, Mityana, Mubende and Wakiso districts fall under his docket.

Luwaga is interested in humanitarian work and is a keen Rotarian.