HIV/AIDS testing machine to anti-disease efforts By Shawnel Cudjoe
Guyana Chronicle
June 11, 2004

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GUYANA’S fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic got another significant boost Wednesday when two CD4 FACS Count Machines were donated to the Central Medical Laboratory of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).

The donation was made possible by the United States Government, under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, through the Centers for Disease Control – Guyana, the Ministry of Health and the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

On January 28, 2003, American President George Bush, initiated a five year, US$15 billion project to curb the AIDS epidemic in several countries around the world.

The CD4 testing machines are Guyana’s first step towards that, as one of two Caribbean countries that were identified.

For the first time in Guyana’s history, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) patients will be able to access CD4 testing free of cost in the public healthcare system.

This type of testing now available is used to monitor and provide reliable information on the status of HIV-infected persons’ immune systems, so that they can be cared for using state of the art equipment.

The testing would now be able to determine how much damage has been caused in one’s system, objectively monitor patients’ response to the treatment, and will act as a better prevention in the transmission of the disease from mother to child.
At yesterday’s launching at the Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, Programme Manager of the National AIDS Programme Secretariat Dr. Morris Edwards told the gathering that Guyana’s response to the HIV fight is one in the right direction, since the country is no exception to the toll the disease has taken on the world.

He noted that Guyana has made every committed effort to get infected persons on treatment, adding that a number of workshops were held over the past two years, training a number of doctors and nurses to assist in finding solutions to the AIDS fight.

The number of trained persons have resulted in them being able to treat patients in outlying areas such as Region Two (Pomeroon/Supernaam), Three (Essequibo Island/West Demerara), Six (East Berbice/Corentyne), and Ten (Upper Demerara/Berbice).
Dr. Morris told the gathering that the reason for only treating 360 persons out of the 6000 infected with the dreaded disease was the absence of lab technology to determine the maximum age persons can live without having treatment.

With the acquisition of the CD4 machines, this will change significantly.

Minister of Health Dr. Leslie Ramsammy told the gathering that this is yet another milestone as Guyana’s fight for life as it relates to the AIDS epidemic continues.

He noted that with the machines, the country is one step closer to a comprehensive response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic – a feat that that all Guyanese should feel a sense of pride about.

According to Ramsammy, although the treatment will be available free of cost, rules about its use will have to be adhered to.

“We will ensure that no one who needs CD4 testing is deprived, but there will be strict protocol about its use”, the Minister said.

Presentations were also given by Medical Superintendent of the Georgetown Public Hospital, Dr. Madan Rambarran, Dr. Mary Boland of the FXB, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy Betty McCutchin and a representative of Persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).

CD4 cells are a type of white blood cell that coordinates the immune system’s response to certain microorganisms by viruses. These are the cells infected by HIV.

As the HIV viral load increases in the body, it kills the CD4 cells and causes the CD4 count to drop.

The CD4 count is measured by taking a small sample of blood and the test results assist in starting and managing antiretroviral therapy and prophylaxis for opportunistic infections.

The CD4 count rise and fall due to a variety of factors such as flu, smoking, major surgeries, menstrual cycle among others.

A two-day lecture series on HIV/AIDS will conclude today at the Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel.

Some of the topics for discussion will be Guidelines for performing CD4 cell determinants for people living with HIV/AIDS; Clinical sues for CD4 counts and the Virology of HIV.