Viral load tests ‘could transform HIV treatment failure’
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is calling for an increased use of viral load monitoring to improve treatment outcomes of HIV patients, in its latest study on testing in Africa.
Of those suspected of treatment failure after standard HIV tests such as white cell counts and clinical signs, as many as 70 per cent could be unnecessarily switched to more toxic treatments because these tests can falsely suggest their first-line treatment is failing, MSF’s study reports.
Instead, viral load tests determine the amount of virus in a patient’s blood and can better monitor how someone is responding to treatment on antiretrovirals (ARVs). If levels are found to be ‘undetectable’ the drugs are suppressing HIV as they should and people are less likely to transmit the virus to others. But an elevated viral load indicates a problem.