Australian based healthcare company, Atomo Diagnostics, is determined to revolutionise the way HIV is tested for with their Medical Design Excellence Awards (MDEA) award winning product AtomoRapid™ HIV.

In a recent interview with eHealthNews, Managing Director of Atomo Africa, Brad Mears, said he joined the organisation in March because of how impressed he was with the technology. “When I met the product team I immediately realised how exciting and innovative the technology was,” said Mears.

Mears believes the current process of HIV testing is cumbersome and not efficient. “South Africa is in the mature phase of the HIV epidemic; so the issue now is not the number of people being tested but the quality of the manner in which they are being tested,” said Mears.

According to Mears, during the 2010/2011 National Department of Health (NDoH) led initiative to test 50 million people for HIV there was a 90% sensitivity rate and around 160,000 misdiagnosed cases. “There’s a big difference in quality between testing in a lab versus in the field; current testing algorithms are too inefficient. AtomoRapid™ HIV was designed with the patient in mind to cater to their needs, and because of how it works it also avoids the potential for mistakes and frees up the nurses’ time to be more effective in patient care,” said Mears.

According to Mears, AtomoRapid™ HIV is highly comparable with other HIV tests on the market and has a very high specificity rate of over 99%. “The benefits of AtomoRapid™ HIV are realised during the preparation and the actual testing; because there are less components the preparation time is less and the process of taking a blood sample is quick, both of which dramatically reduce the waiting time,” said Mears.

Another important aspect of AtomoRapid™ HIV is its potential to promote patient empowerment through self-testing. “There are still hurdles that need to be overcome, but the stigma around HIV is rapidly declining in this country. AtomoRapid™ HIV provides a multitude of options for how and when a person can be tested, even from the privacy of their own home,” said Mears when discussing the release of their home test kit for individuals who would opt to pay a higher price for a reliable test that can be used at home and at their convenience.

Mears went on to talk about the importance of contact with nurses when using self-testing so they can follow up and ensure the correct ARVs are prescribed. “The phone number of the patient is linked to the test pouch, so after a week’s time the nurse or even someone in a call centre can call them to find out if they got their results and to organise a follow-up appointment,” said Mears.

Atomo has collaborated with the Trucking Wellness Project to test truck drivers at roadside stops as well as sex workers in the area. “So far the project is proving to be a great success,” said Mears. Atomo is also collaborating with the SA Business Coalition on HIV/Aids (SABCOHA), of which Mears is the former CEO, and the Golden Arrow Bus Service to routinely test its staff.

There are currently a number of conversations under way with government – at both a local and provincial level – about using the diagnostic test. “Our goal is to educate both the public and healthcare workers about the product and to move the self-testing debate forward,” concluded Mears.

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