USB HIV test could help developing countries | Dec 14, 2016

In the early 1980s, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report which described a new, rare form of lung cancer that was becoming prevalent among young, gay men. As more individuals came forward with signs of the disease, the organization knew they had a serious illness of their hands.

After years of in-depth research, doctors discovered the cause of certain symptoms to be HIV/AIDS. While the virus still affects 36.7 million people worldwide as of 2015, it is easier to manage the disease today, if people have access to the proper resources and are aware of their status.

New technology

According to World Health Organization, only 60 percent of individuals with HIV know their status. In an effort to improve this figure and give individuals access to testing services and treatment, researchers are developing new tools.

The most recent is a portable USB device that is able to detect HIV levels in a person’s blood. To use the instrument, a drop of blood from a patient is placed on a chip. If the virus is present, an acidity change will occur and an electrical signal will be sent to the USB stick, according to LiveScience. The information can then be transferred to a computer for further research.

Since current HIV testing requires blood tests, lab works and a waiting period of at least three days, the USB tool could decrease the amount of time it takes to detect the virus – the entire process takes less than 30 minutes with the portable stick. Furthermore, the device could be incredibly helpful in treating the disease in developing countries. The results from the USB could show people not only if they have HIV, but if their current medications are working properly.
While the USB is still undergoing additional tests before it can be used by doctors and their patients, the tool was up to 95 percent accurate in detecting HIV levels in a recent study.

The history

By the end of 1981, 270 cases were reported, causing 121 deaths. As the years continued, various health organizations, including the CDC completed more research into what was termed “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome” or AIDS. By May 1986, a new name – Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV – was the formal term for the epidemic. Researchers soon discovered that the virus is transmitted via certain body fluids from someone with HIV – usually through sex or sharing injection drug equipment.

Basic prevention

As more information became known about HIV/AIDS, public health officials distributed materials regarding prevention of the virus. To reduce the risk of contracting the virus, individuals should do the following, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Get tested and be aware of your sexual partner’s HIV status.
  • Use condoms during intercourse.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners.
  • Get tested and treated for STDs.
  • Don’t use injectable drugs.
  • Talk to your doctor about pre-exposure prophylaxis.

Public health response

WHO is a partner and cosponsor of the Joint United Nations Programme on AIDS (UNAIDS) and collaborates with UNICEF to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The organization also heads activities that educate people on HIV treatment and care.

Furthermore, the 69th World Health Assembly compiled a “Global Health Sector Strategy on HIV for 2016-2021,” which includes the five following directions that will guide the most important actions by WHO and countries over the upcoming years:

1. Information for focused action: Knowing the epidemic and the appropriate response.
2. Interventions for impact: Understanding the range of services necessary.
3. Delivering for equity: Covering the populations in need of services.
4. Financing for sustainability: Covering the costs of services.
5. Innovation for acceleration: Keeping an eye on what the future has in store.