Stabroek News
Georgetown, Guyana
15 October 2003

Two new tests to help treat HIV

The Ministry of Health is expected to introduce two more advanced HIV/AIDS tests which will enable doctors to better monitor patients and to administer the anti-retroviral drugs in a timely manner.

Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy had made the announcement of the two new tests at the ceremony expanding the national treatment programme last Monday. Yesterday, Director of the Genito-Urinary Clinic (GUM), Dr Michael Ali told Stabroek News that one of the new tests was to ascertain the viral load in the HIV patient and from this doctors could assess the virus’ effect on the immune system.

The second test is for the critical CD4 cell. When that test is done and the number of those CD4 cell makers has dropped then it means that the HIV virus is prospering. This will then give the doctor an idea of the damage being done to the integrity of the cells. Dr Ali explained that right now, before administering the drugs, the patient first had to start showing symptoms of AIDS which in some cases could be too late. He noted that this was not the right thing to do but in the absence of these two tests there was no other alternative. With these tests persons can be placed on the programme without showing any symptoms of AIDS.

The tests will also encourage patients to adhere to their treatment. They are expected to be first initiated in the city, through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of the United States.

But Dr Ali said he had not seen any tangible evidence to “say that they will start in the next two months or so.” However, he said that those involved in implementing the tests were working and might be waiting for the machines to arrive in the country.

These tests are done privately but at a very high cost.