It was over a year ago when Health Action Information Network (HAIN) worked with HIV & AIDS Support House for a project initially called “Same-day testing”. This project was supported by the Global Fund, then under the PR-ship of AIDS Society of the Philippines.
The project aimed to come up with guidelines and write-up an Administrative order for the same-day testing. It was a brief project which eventually led to the pilot testing of what was eventually called the Rapid HIV Diagnostic Algorithm or rHIVda. rHIVda hopes to eventually take the place of the western blot–which is up until now, the confirmatory test for HIV in the country. As the confirmatory process is centralized at the STD AIDS Cooperative Center Laboratory (SACCL) at the Department of Health, there were issues around the confirmatory process but the most alarming (from the HIV community’s perspective) is the long waiting time for the patients to transition to their Antiretroviral therapy (ART) since the process takes around 10 days from the time SACCL receives the blood for confirmatory. In the cases of the regional clinics, it takes more than 3 weeks just to wait for the results. So for a patient to get the medical attention s/he may need, some hospitals will insist on waiting for the confirmatory.
How does rHIVda go? I dunno! Just kidding. Basically, after screening reactive, 2-3 parallel tests are done to verify and re-verify the results. if 2/3 or 3/3 turned out reactive, the client then is considered “provisional positive” and is linked to care at once (where baseline labs are done, etc.). Of course, all reactive bloods are still sent to SACCL for confirmatory (and for quality assurance).
And so rHIVda ran a pilot test across a few sites, Loveyourself clinics (2), Quezon City’s Klinika Bernardo, Cebu Social Hygiene Clinic and the Davao’s Reproductive Health and Wellness Center, this time through the Global Fund-Save the Children. I don’t have the details as to how much false positive or false negatives came out of the test but I am looking forward to the pushing for rHIVda for the faster access to services.
Bottomline? The eventual (yes, I am assuming it will roll out) of rHIVda will make link-to-care faster for the patients.
I salute everyone who made this possible. Too many to mention but the success of this rHIVda sill hopefully reflect in the increased care access among people living with HIV. We have a long way to go like making all the rest of the sites in the country ready for rHIVda, but we started somewhere, and we’ll get there.
I remember when I waited for months for my confirmatory back in 2007. Those days will soon be gone.
Sooner, I hope.