Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Health has launched a RDT strip that can test for five diseases using one blood sample.
The test kits that are manufactured by Abbott Laboratories can test for Malaria, HIV, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and C concurrently.
They were launched on Tuesday as part of the free to shine campaign, which advocates for all children to be born free of many preventable diseases such as HIV, syphilis, and Hepatitis at Kawempe referral hospital.
According to data from the health ministry, malaria is the most common disease that affects expectant mothers in the country. It accounts for more than 20 percent of all out-patient visits while it estimated that 6 percent of all expectant mothers suffer from syphilis which when exposed to the child can lead to death.
Dr Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health says the strips will make it possible for many expectant mothers to know their status on some of the common infectious diseases that they suffer from.
Dr Susan Nabadda, the Commissioner and Executive Director of the Central Public Health Laboratories in- charge of laboratories says the strip will make testing for infections easier for mothers.
“Before testing has been concentrated on HIV and Syphilis but now we shall be able to test for five diseases at the same time minus women having to move to take different tests during different period of their antenatal,” Dr. Nabadda said.
The health ministry also launched a new HIV machine, M-Pima HIV viral load test that will make it possible for children to know their results. Mothers living with HIV will no longer need to wait for long before they can know the HIV status of their children in less than 70 minutes.
Dr Nabadda says the machine is going to change the way that children who are HIV positive are enrolled in treatment.
The procurement of the machine follows a pilot study that was carried out last year to test the effectiveness of the equipment.
According to Dr. Nabadda, results from the study shows that the equipment made it possible for at least seven out of every mothers living with HIV who delivered in a health facility to know the HIV status of their baby before they were discharged from hospital.
According to Dr Nabadda, a total of 100 machines and more testing kits are going to be imported into the country by January 2020.
“We are going to carry out an assessment in the next few weeks to determine where we shall send the machines. But for now, we are looking at all our 31 regional hospitals and other health facilities,” Nabadda said.
The equipment is being procured on a Placement basis where the manufacturing company-Abbot is going to give the machines to Uganda at no cost on the basis that the country procures reagents for the tests from them.
“Right now we cannot tell how much it is going to cost us because we are not yet sure of how many reagents we shall use. So we cannot reveal that information now,” Dr Nabadda said.
Dr Nabadda says the strips are important because some of the diseases are passed onto babies without the knowledge of the mother.
Both the M-pima and the test kits are scheduled to arrive in the country in February 2020.
Gloria Byamagero, a mother of four children living with HIV says the new machine will make it easy for mothers to know the status of their children.
“All my children are negative but the process I go through for the check-ups is long. My children had to be enrolled onto Septrin as I waited to take the test after more than one month after they were born. The suspense was a lot,” Byamagero says.
Data from the Uganda AIDS Commission estimates that 5.5 percent of all expectant mothers are HIV positive.