Rwanda undecided on use of new HIV testing device

KIGALI - Rwanda has not yet decided whether to consider using a recently developed device that provides HIV and syphilis results in just 20 minutes. Scientists recently developed an inexpensive, portable blood test kit that can tell, within minutes, whether a person has HIV or syphilis. 
 Dr Anita Asiimwe
Dr Anita Asiimwe

KIGALI - Rwanda has not yet decided whether to consider using a recently developed device that provides HIV and syphilis results in just 20 minutes.

Scientists recently developed an inexpensive, portable blood test kit that can tell, within minutes, whether a person has HIV or syphilis. 

The device was successfully tested in Rwanda and researchers say it could provide a faster, cheaper and easier way to detect infectious diseases throughout the developing world.

The mobile microfluidic chip, dubbed ‘mChip’ is the brainchild of Samuel Sia, a biomedical engineer at Columbia University in New York.

Speaking to The New Times, the Deputy Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Dr Anita Asiimwe, said that although tests were conducted in Rwanda, there is a lot to look at before using the chip.

“There are other conditions to consider before we employ the chip. The device has to first get approval by the World Health Organisation,” Dr Asiimwe said.

 “We also need to cost the price of the chip and compare it with the testing measures we have here. So, at the moment we can’t determine whether we will use it or not”.

According to Sia, the small plastic device can diagnose HIV and syphilis within 20 minutes, using only a micro-litre of blood.

“What we’ve done is to miniaturise what is traditionally a complex laboratory blood-based test into something that you can hold in your hand, the size of a credit card, so that you can just finger-prick a drop of blood, put it into the card and minutes later, you get the results,” he explained.

The mChip which was tested on over 400 blood samples Rwanda was proven 100 percent accurate in detecting HIV, and with only one so-called false positive case in which a volunteer was incorrectly diagnosed with the virus that causes AIDS.

In terms of syphilis testing, the mChip accurately detected 94 percent of positive cases with only four false positives out of 67 samples.

HIV testing in Rwanda is well decentralised with more than 80 percent of all health facilities offering the test.

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