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GEN News Highlights : Jul 25, 2011

Roche to Provide HIV/AIDS Tests in South Africa for Early Infant Diagnosis

Exclusive contract with country’s NHLS will enable dried blood sampling.

Roche won an exclusive contract from South Africa’s National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) to provide diagnostics in support of the country’s Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) program. The EID program is reportedly the world’s largest infant HIV testing initiative.

Roche's diagnostics will allow infants born to HIV-positive mothers to be tested within weeks of birth, using the dried blood sampling technique, which involves preserving a spot of blood on filter paper and sending it to the testing center. Roche claims this approach eliminates the need for refrigeration and significantly reduces the volume of blood that needs to be stored or transported.

Diagnosis of HIV in infants is also a major challenge, the firm adds. Antibody tests are ineffective because maternal antibodies can remain in the child’s system for up to 15 months and yield false positive results. “The ability to determine the HIV status of an infant as early as six weeks is crucial to determining the appropriate care and support of these HIV-positive children,” comments Daniel O’Day, COO at Roche Diagnostics.

Roche established its AmpliCare program in South Africa in 2002, with the aim of increasing access to diagnostics and monitoring tests for HIV/AIDS in developing countries. Through the initiative Roche supplies HIV diagnostics and viral load tests at low cost to sub-Saharan Africa, South America, and nations designated by the United Nations as the Least Developed Countries.