The testing and screening of blood have become a big part of fighting HIV / AIDS in developing countries. The tests can determine the health of a person’s immune system by measuring the level of disease fighting CD4 cells. The lower the level, the more advanced the disease.
But local clinics don’t always have enough staff or training to keep up with demand -- or to ensure that the blood is collected safely.
However, Kenya is taking action Monday to change that with the launch of a new program. It has partnered with the U.S. medical technology firm BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief, to train clinicians how to safely collect and handle blood.
Dr. Nicholas Muraguri, head of Kenya’s National AIDS / STD Control Program, describes the scope of Kenya’s HIV/AIDS problem.
“We estimate that HIV prevalence in Kenya is around 7 percent. That is looking at people between 15 years and 64 years old. And there’s a big difference between men and women. Women’s HIV prevalence is around 8.4 percent and men it’s 5.3 percent,” he says.
He says it means that out of a population of 40 million, about 1.4 million people in Kenya are living with HIV/AIDS.
Muraguri says Kenya has a new HIV strategic plan. “We have an ambitious program to eliminate potentially any risk of HIV transmission in our health care settings. We have around 650,000 people currently under care. These are people who are HIV positive.”
Caring for them involves blood tests, a minimum of about two per year per person. “We’re talking about 1.2 million samples being drawn,” says Dr. Muraguri.
Blood samples are drawn for other diseases as well.
“Now if that’s not done properly, there is an obvious risk to the health worker and also a risk to the patient as well,” he says. “Within a certain environment we can completely stop transmission.”
“We have picked 8 facilities in 4 regions. We are basically covering high prevalence regions. So we could have HIV prevalence as high as 15 percent in some of the regions,” he says.
He says the program builds on earlier efforts to ensure injection safety, which includes proper methods of using hypodermic needles and disposing of them safely. Safe blood collection also includes the quality of the specimen. He says, “If you don’t get a correct sample…you probably mismanage the patient as well.”
Initially, 20 Kenyan health care workers at the 8 clinics will be trained by BD. They in turn will train others.
BD says the goal is to “ultimately train thousands of health care workers in developing countries.” The firm, based in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, describes itself as one of PEPFAR’s “strongest collaborators.”
BD says it’s also underwriting the construction of two incinerators in Kenya that will be used to safely dispose of used blood-related devices.