Commonly used HIV testing kits in Kenya fail crucial WHO test

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Several popular HIV testing kits used in Kenya have failed crucial tests performed by the World Health Organization increasing the likelihood of false positives.

The kits also used in several other African countries have failed to meet crucial thresholds set by the health body.

Only one of the eight commonly used HIV Rapid Diagnostic Tests (RDTs) met the recommended threshold in a recent evaluation.

The evaluation came on the heels of several reports of HIV misdiagnosis which has risen to a staggering 10.5 per cent in some African countries.

The evaluation commenced with blood samples being collected from HIV clinics in Kenya, Guinea, Uganda, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These were then tested with the eight kits at a WHO collaborating laboratory in Antwerp, Belgium.

The evaluation report was collaborated by the ministries of Health of the five African countries and the international charity group, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) of Netherlands.

“Individual kits performed more poorly than in WHO evaluations, with only one test (STAT-PAK) meeting the recommended thresholds,” read the report published  in the Journal of the International AIDS Society.

One kit in particular is shown to have returned false positives on 15.72 per cent of the samples collected. This kit returned 438 false positives from the 2,785 samples collected from August 2011 to January 2015.

Earlier before the tests were conducted, WHO had largely attributed the misdiagnosis to human error but the report suggests that it is in fact due to the kits.

The report says that the misdiagnosis has little to do with human factors normally associated with “poor” Africa such as unqualified staff, poor storage of samples and kits, or other methodological factors.

From the evaluation report, the authors concluded that results were found to differ by gender, geographical origin of the sample, and type of clinic the specimen had come from.

About 1.3 million Kenyans are estimated to be living with HIV.

In July 2016, a Kenyan woman was misdiagnosed with HIV at Diani Health Centre in Mombasa.

When the developments surfaced, Kenya Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists Board (KMLTTB) officials said they would investigate the source of the misdiagnosis, qualifications of the person who tested her and the process used.

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