Implementing and using viral load testing : practical tools

Why the OPP-ERA project?

Measuring HIV viral load is a key diagnostic tool to follow up patients living with HIV/AIDS. Thanks to the test, conducted six months after the initiation of antiretroviral treatment and then once a year, patients and clinicians can ensure the therapeutic success of the treatment. Otherwise, it allows to detect patients with a compliance problem or for whom the treatment is not or no longer effective, in order to propose alternative treatment lines. Undetectable viral load is thus identified as the key indicator of antiretroviral treatment effectiveness. 

However, access to viral load tests remains insufficient today as it presents many challenges for health systems in developing countries. Regardless of the biomolecular technology used  in laboratories, the testing requires the existence of trained personnel, infrastructure, the purchase and maintenance of equipment and a continuous supply of reagents necessary for each test. Long-term training activities for clinicians and patients’ awareness must be carried out to encourage them to use the test and its results to control the disease.  

Besides, the cost of equipment and reagents, despite international efforts to negotiate prices, remains very high for many countries. Many of the technical solutions available on the market are expensive and require the purchase of reagents from the same company as the equipment.

Launched in 2013, the OPP-ERA project expanded access to viral load tests on a larger scale and at an affordable cost in Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea through the implementation of open polyvalent platforms (OPP), an innovative molecular biology system. The project was thus a great contribution to the UNAIDS’ targets to end HIV :  90% of patients on antiretroviral therapy having an undetectable viral load by 2020.

Watch the web documentary : The OPP-ERA project beyond the technical solution