Viral Load Test For Hepatitis B Now in Uganda Top story

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In short
The country with over 3.5 million people living with hepatitis B virus has been lacking machines for testing viral load.

The viral load test for Hepatitis B can now be done at the Central Public Health Laboratories and will soon extend to the regional referral hospitals.

The country with over 3.5 million people living with hepatitis B virus has been lacking machines for testing viral load.

Wilson Nyegenye, the logistics Coordinator at Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL) says the institution has just acquired more than required capacity to run thousands of viral load tests.

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Viral load testing is expected to be very useful in rendering effective medical services to the patients. In the past screening and testing has been performed on patients but viral load tests were missing from the package.  

This test measures the actual amount of hepatitis B in a blood sample, which helps determine whether the virus is reproducing in the liver.
 
A person with detectable viral load greater than 20,000 international units per millilitre (IU/mL) of blood indicates that the virus is active and has the greatest potential to cause damage to the liver.

The hepatitis B programme is under the Department of Clinical Services at the Ministry of Health. The Central Public Health laboratory however handles the laboratory services which have a component of screening information and monitoring.

The government is focusing on screening the population of fifteen years and above. Those that are found negative are vaccinated while those that are found positive have to go through viral load tests before they are initiated on treatment aimed at ensuring that the virus does not continue to damage the liver leading to liver cancer.

Uganda Radio Network was granted a guided tour at the laboratories in Butabika where the ultra-modern DNA machines have been installed.

The machines are able to run viral loads for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and other tests like sickle cell screening in children.

But as the services get rolled out, officials at the laboratory are worried that they may not be able to sustain the laboratories due to likely shortage of the reagents.

The available reagents were provided by suppliers or the new DNA machines and testing kits.
Top health ministry officials together with technical persons from the laboratory were on Friday meeting in Jinja to draw a plan on how to roll out the service.

The Ministry's Permanent Secretary Dr. Diana Atwine has promised to work with the Ministry of Finance to purchase the reagents through National Medical Stores. Uganda is among the countries committed to the ambitious global target of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030.
 
These targets apply to everyone at risk of viral hepatitis infection.
 
Globally, the viral hepatitis pandemic takes a heavy toll on lives, communities and health systems. It is responsible for an estimated 1.4 million deaths per year from acute infection and hepatitis-related liver cancer and cirrhosis - atoll comparable to that of HIV and tuberculosis.