PGH gets new HIV testing machine

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A cluster of differentiation 4 or CD4 machine is a critical equipment that allows doctors to know when to start their patients who are living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) on life-saving antiretroviral therapy.

When someone has HIV, knowing their CD4 count helps determine the stage of HIV infection and progression of the virus. The machine, which counts the number of white blood cells that fights the infection, also helps guide drug choices and indicate how the patient is responding to the treatment.

Last week, the Philippine General Hospital acquired this same machine (a FACSCount flow cytometer) through the efforts of the Rotary Club of Makati West and a number of medical students from the Australian National University.

The FACSCount system is a cost-effective system designed to provide absolute and percentage results of CD4 T lymphocytes to stage progression of HIV/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, guide treatment decisions for HIV-infected individuals, and evaluate the effectiveness of therapy in a wide range of laboratory settings.

The PGH also believes that the machine is set to become an important tool for the hospital as the country remains one of the few countries which have failed to prevent the spread of the virus.

The PGH is regarded as one of the three main government- and PhilHealth-affiliated HIV/ Aids hubs in the country (the other two being the San Lazaro Hospital and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine).

In 1984, the PGH Infectious Diseases department reported that there were only two HIV confirmed cases in the country. Since then, there have been 12,791 HIV cases with AIDS cases already numbering 1,228 (if one receives no treatment for HIV infection, the disease typically progresses to Aids in about 10 years).

The death toll now stands at 353.

The latest reported cases of infections brought the aggregate number of cases in the national HIV and Aids registry to 12,241 cases, of which 93 percent—or 11,520—acquired the virus through sexual contact.

The same registry showed that an alarming 85 percent of the cases involved males having sex with other males (MSM).

The age group 15 to 24, or the youth, was also notable in most new cases.

Of the 370 new cases listed in the registry, 11 were already full-blown Aids at the time of reporting.

Metro Manila accounted for more than half of the new cases (55 percent) while Calabarzon had 14 percent. Other regions cited were: Central Visayas, 7 percent; Central Luzon, 3 percent and Davao region, 5 percent).

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