“In 1998, HIV was something hiding. No one was talking about it,” says Dr. Christiane Adje-Toure, Laboratory Director of RETRO-CI and Laboratory Branch Chief of CDC-Cote d’Ivoire. Indeed, fear and stigma were huge hurdles in the HIV epidemic, with Cote d’Ivoire having one of the highest prevalence rates in West Africa. Timely diagnosis, followed by prompt treatment and care, was especially challenging for patients living in regions without the necessary infrastructure, diagnostics, and resources to transport specimens to the central testing facilities based in Abidjan. The risk for mortality among HIV positive infants grows with each passing day the infant goes without treatment. “By the time the results arrived, we would look for the mother, and the child had died the day before, or the week before, because it took us a month or two months before we get the results,” Dr. Yacouba Doumbia, Health Alliance International’s Technical Advisor for Preventing Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT).
Remarkable progress has been made over the past year to increase access for HIV diagnosis of infants, viral load monitoring of HIV positive patients, and assurance of tailored treatment based on viral load testing results. In support of President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and in collaboration with CDC-Cote d’Ivoire, central regional hospitals and universities, and other local PEPFAR care and treatment stakeholders, ASM established four modular molecular diagnostic laboratories in regions with high HIV prevalence: Abengourou, Bouake, San Pedro, and Yopougon. Collaborators in the project considered all that was involved with the implementation of these laboratories: molecular diagnostic training of laboratory technicians, electrical safety and fire extinguisher training to hospital facility and laboratory staff, equipment and preventative maintenance training, delivery and stock management of life-saving reagents and test kits, integration of information technology to track and report results of patients, and other essential needs to maintain quality laboratory services.
The laboratories launched operations in February 2015, August 2015, October 2015, and April 2016. During this period, approximately 2,364 infants were tested for HIV, and approximately 11,220 HIV positive patients had their viral load monitored to secure tailored treatment to suppress HIV viral load. Over the next year, ASM will continue to collaborate with CDC-Cote d’Ivoire to set up seven more laboratories, four of which will be containerized, and up to fifty satellite laboratories nationwide. Universal access to HIV testing and timely treatment is within Cote d’Ivoire’s reach. To see this story from the field, please click here to see ASM’s Cultures video: Cote d’Ivoire - Reaching an AIDS Free Generation.
For this and more HIV/AIDS resources from ASM please visit www.asm.org/HIV.