Faster Test Results Mean Better Outcomes For HIV Patients

Over the last 15 years, many African nations have made major strides towards enabling millions of HIV-positive people to access HIV antiretroviral therapy. This has helped to treat individual patients and maximize their health, as well as help lower the risk for transmission of HIV to others. But the lack of a key lab test needed to track whether HIV therapy is working optimally—known as HIV viral load testing—has been an obstacle to optimal patient care.

Now, a team of scientists at UC San Francisco and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda have developed and tested an intervention that makes use of a portable laboratory testing technology to help HIV providers order, process, and receive HIV viral load results quickly, and shorten the time it takes for patients to get their results.

By using a hub-and-spoke system to create regional testing hubs serving local clinics, instead of centralizing viral load testing in the capital city, scientists were able to reduce the time it takes to get results from about two months to just one day.

Importantly, the study found a significant increase in viral suppression among the patients served by the hub-and-spoke clinics, the goal of making viral load testing more timely and more widely available. One year after the intervention, viral suppression was 83.1 percent in the intervention clinics and 76.0 percent in the control clinics.

Faster Turnaround Improves Care

Time is of the essence in HIV care, and viral load measurements are a crucial tool in knowing whether treatment is working. This is especially