Lab offering key test on HIV resistance

Stabroek News
December 7, 2002

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Persons infected with the HIV virus can now get an accurate measure of how their immune system is resisting the disease with equipment that measures their CD4-cell count.

The Becton Dickinson's Facscount System was commissioned yesterday at the Multi-Tech Reference Laboratory, 77 Winter Place Brickdam.

Errol Bassoo, Director of the laboratory said the machine measures the absolute cell counts of CD4, CD8 and CD3 T lymphocytes in the blood. He explained that when HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - infects humans, the cell it infects most is the CD4. The CD4 cell count is therefore key to measuring how well the immune system is holding up and to indicate when patients should start certain types of drug therapy. CD4 counts will also tell the doctor whether the drug therapy is working. According to Bassoo, the technology is the first of its kind in Guyana and he expressed the hope that it will be utilised to its fullest thus ensuring that HIV patients are benefiting from this anti-viral therapy. The machine was acquired at a cost of US$45,000 and it will cost some $10,000-11,000 to do a test.

Delivering the feature address, Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy said the acquisition of the machine is in keeping with one of the goals of his ministry and the government of Guyana in forging partnerships with NGOs and the private sector. Ramsammy reiterated that it is the goal of his ministry to encourage the private sector to participate in the delivery of health services. The minister reminded the small gathering that when his ministry launched anti-retroviral drugs for the treatment of HIV/AIDS it had indicated that no treatment is complete or could be successful without the necessary monitoring tests. He said the CD4 cell count is a major indicator of the immune status of an individual as it is important to know when a person's CD4 count is so affected that he has moved from being simply HIV positive to having AIDS.

The equipment would now better assist the ministry in monitoring HIV patients as the test would allow doctors to move from looking for opportunistic infections to measuring the deterioration of the immune system. Ramsammy congratulated Bassoo for his initiative and said the government would now consider buying its own equipment so patients could have the test without paying.

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