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Cost-Effective HIV Viral Load Assay


Is this a diagnostics test?

No. This device is a viral load test. If a patient undergoes viral load testing, this means they have already been diagnosed with HIV. The viral load determines the number of virions in the patient’s blood which is a crucial component to ensure anti-retroviral therapy is working. The goal is to have all patients who are living with HIV become virally suppressed.

Is this a Point-of-Care device? Why not?

No. This device will be used in a clinic and handled by healthcare workers. This is because the blood required for the assay is more than a finger prick. Patients must go to the clinic to get their blood drawn, but may be notified of their viral load at home through a phone call, text, or letter.

Why is your team focused on patients in sub-Saharan Africa?

In 2017, 54% of people living with HIV lived in this area. Furthermore, in 2019, 21 million people in this region are living with HIV. Remote locations in these areas also have fewer medical resources and patients have to travel long distances (60+ km/37+ miles) to arrive at the closest healthcare clinic.

What makes your device unique?

The cost (around $10 less than current technologies) and the fact that it functions without the need for a refrigerator for storage or a power supply.

What was the most challenging part of the design?

Creating a device that has a workflow as intuitive as possible. Testing the effectiveness of the device, especially to provide timely results, has also been a challenge as the microfluidics paper layers are still being developed.

How has COVID-19 impacted your design and the HIV epidemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the entire team from being in the design lab at once, and all our meetings were held over Zoom. Nonetheless, we are grateful for the support of our peers, professors, and customers.

The HIV epidemic has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the WHO, the lockdowns and border closures have impacted both the production of HIV medicines and their distribution. Recent models estimate that a six-month complete disruption in HIV treatment could lead to more than 500,000 additional deaths from AIDS-related illnesses.

The interplay between the COVID-19 pandemic and the HIV epidemic highlights the importance of experts from all fields from all over the world to come together as well as the need for a device that is affordable, can be purchased in bulk, and lasts for a long time.

-“The cost of inaction: COVID-19-related service disruptions could cause hundreds of thousands of extra deaths from HIV,”

What distinguishes this cassette from a regular box?

Our cassette design ensures the layers are properly tight without any wiggle room, blood is only applied in one section without spilling and that the reagents are added to the correct layer in the correct orientation.

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