Health ministry launches new HIV testing machine

Tuesday September 23 2014

Ms Neha Goel a research assistant at the University

Ms Neha Goel a research assistant at the University of Cambrigde illustratres how the Samba technolgy is used to diagnose HIV and monitoring viral load. File photo 


KAMPALA- The Ministry of Health yesterday rolled out a new transformative point-of-care diagnostic machine which gives instant results for the detection of a genetic material of the HIV virus.

Dubbed, SAMBA II, the highly portable machine enables medics to determine the baby’s HIV status within two hours and 90 minutes for motoring viral loads in mature patients, this provides a better solution to the current screening process where samples are faced with transportation challenges to the Central Public Health Laboratory.
According to the Minister of State for Primary Health Care, Ms Sarah Opendi, the convectional platforms for DNA based HIV tests takes many hours to perform and requires specialised facilities and highly-trained personnel.
“This point of care machine will help transform the lives of tens of thousands of HIV exposed infants who have a 50 per cent chance of early death if HIV infection is noted diagnosed within the first six weeks of life,” said Ms Opendi.

She added in the current early infant HIV diagnosis (EID), more than 40 per cent of positive infants are lost in terms of follow up before they can be initiated on treatment.
“By bringing this rapid test, SAMBA II, resolves these challenges and comes at the right time to improve access to Viral load monitoring services in Uganda,” noted Ms Opendi.

Tested and approved
Speaking on behalf of the technology developers, Ms Lourdes M Nadala, the director of Regulatory and Scientific Affairs at the Diagnostics for Real World, a spin-out company from the University of Cambridge, noted that the technology has been validated in Makerere University, John Hopkins University Collaboration and Arua Regional Referral Hospital together with other laboratories in Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe .

“The SAMBA II machine can detect all the HIV Subtypes and has been found to have high sensitivity,” said Ms Nadala, adding that it has already been approved by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology.

According to Nadala, the technology integrates the whole testing process within a single instrument using ready-made cartridges, and easy to read results are obtained in less than two hours with the whole command process done using a smart phone application.


Meanwhile, a training involving 42 different health workers with varying levels of qualifications from different health facilities across the country is underway to build their capacity in using the technology that requires minimal knowledge.

After the training, Dr Ruth Acheng, the director general at the Ministry of Health, observed that a pilot implementation will be conducted in few health facilities across the country.