Having a high CD4 count is no longer an indication of effective treatment of HIV, says director of clinical care and diagnostic services at the Ministry of health, Kennedy Lishimpi.
Dr Lishimpi said in HIV positive patients, high CD4 count could be a misrepresentation in the actual goings-on in the body’s immunity and the antiretroviral treatment intended to suppress viral activity could be in vein.
He said CD4 was an important segment in the functionality of the immune system that was used to detect the body’s defense systems, but that a significant drop to 200 could be an indication of compromised health, but that in HIV patients, a high CD4 could represent compromised cells which were useless to the body defense.
“HIV patients on ARVs should not rely on their CD4 count because it could be a useless number that does not represent the actual cell ability in the body’s immunity.
“This could be a representation of cells which are not doing the correct thing in defending the body against opportunistic infections and resulting in the patients’ continuous ill health,” he said.
He was speaking during a media event organized to support the launch of the “Be Healthy, know your viral load campaign” aimed at establishing the need for HIV patients to demand viral load tests to ascertain the quantity of the virus in the body.
Dr Lishimpi explained that knowing the viral load would allow health service providers to give the required drug combination for effective treatment of HIV patients especially those who presented high resistance to first line antiretroviral therapy (ART).
He charged that most failed ART was as a result of patients not knowing their viral load despite having a regular CD4 count check with comfortable numbers.
Earlier, Dr Lishimpi disclosed that the Ministry of Health was working towards the introduction of self testing kits aimed at raising the number of testing equipment for HIV.
The medical officer said there was a great concern of people not attending the voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) because of the third person knowing the results, but that the idea of self testing could give chance to every person to take the tests in their own privacy as individuals or couples.
He explained that plans had reached advanced stages in assessing the effectiveness of the self testing HIV kits and that community sampling would soon be underway in the exercise.
“This would allow people to get the self testing kits off the counter at the pharmacy and go home and test, meaning they do not need to go for VCT, but instead would only go to the health centres to access treatment,” he said. And International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) director Christine Stegling said the campaign for viral load testing should improve effective treatment of HIV and as well as lower Government spending on required ARVs for the patients.
Ms Stegling explained that the viral load test would allow patients understand their condition by knowing their response to treatment as well as if there was need to change medication.