12 Sep 2016 16:30pm
WINDHOEK, 12 SEP (NAMPA) Representatives from 11 African countries are Tuesday expected to convene in Windhoek for a four-day HIV viral load testing workshop.
Viral load testing, which measures the amount of viral genetic material in a blood sample, is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for monitoring the treatment of patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
The United States of America (USA) Ambassador to Namibia, Thomas Daughton in a media statement issued on Monday emphasised that the workshop is the first of its kind to be held in Namibia.
Clinical and laboratory experts in the HIV field will discuss and share strategies and country experiences in improving efficiencies for increased HIV viral load testing and uptake of results for patient management.
Hosting the workshop is an important milestone for Namibia, as the country is one of the top three African countries in the provision of viral load testing to people living with HIV. Monitoring HIV treatment through viral load testing is important to detect treatment failure, which can lead to drug resistance and death if not detected early.
The United States Government, through the Presidents Emergency Fund for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), supports the Government of Namibia to achieve the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) targets. This translates into identifying 90 per cent of all people who are HIV positive, getting 90 per cent of them on lifesaving ART and making sure that the virus in 90 per cent of people on treatment is fully suppressed or under control.
Viral load testing is a critical element in HIV treatment because it enables early identification and confirmation of HIV treatment success. Without viral load testing, patients may be continued on failing HIV treatment regimens, increasing their risk of developing drug resistance.
PEPFAR continues to support the Namibian Government in expanding viral load services. In 2015, PEPFAR spent more than US dollars 1.8 million (about N.dollars 27 million) and will spend an additional US dollars 1.4 million (about N.dollars 21 million) in 2016 to expand access to viral load testing capacity.
It is estimated that 71 per cent of the about 200 000 HIV patients in Namibia were during 2015 able to get this test done on a routine basis, allowing clinicians to detect treatment failure early.
The conference will commence on Tuesday and ends on Friday.