Northern Uganda Healthcare boosted with delivery of new CD4 PIMA Machine
By Pat Larubi: Uganda healthcare received a major boost delivery of new CD4 PIMA machines to 33 health facilities in northern Uganda. The CD4 PIMA machines, which use cartridges, a unique breakthrough technology in the enumeration of T-helper cells commonly, referred to as a CD4 count in the whole blood samples and providing results in just 20 minutes.
Speaking at the handover ceremony of CD4 PIMA machines in Apac district last week, Michaels Ochora, the public relations officer, Northern Uganda Health Integrated Services (NU-HITES), said the distribution of the PIMA machines in the region will help counter check on the huge number of people seeking services in relation to CD4 counts and break the bureaucratic tendencies of waiting for longer hours, noting that this is the latest and quickest technology in the field of HIV/AIDS care realization in the region. Some of the beneficiary health centre across the region includes, Patongo HC IV, Agago, Alebtong HC IV, Alebtong, Atiak HC IV, Amuru, Aduku HC IV, Apac , Bata HC IV, Dokolo, Awach HC IV, Gulu, Madi Opei HC IV, Lamwo, Namakora HC IV, Kitgum, Bala HC III, Kole, Padibe, Amach HC IV, Lira, Anaka Hospital, Nwoya, Anyeke HC IV, Oyam and Atanga HC III in Pader district among others. The adoption of CD4 PIMA machine in northern Uganda is aimed towards supporting more HIV positive pregnant women access CD4 testing at local health clinics across the region. The project was made possible with funding from USAID and currently being implemented by Plan International, Gulu regional office. The innovation comes at a time when Northern Uganda has just launch a massive campaign on the elimination of mother to child Transmission in collaboration with the office of the first lady, Mrs. Janet Museveni. Michael believes the Pima CD4 machine installations at public health centres across northern Uganda will empower women to know their HIV status and protect the health of thousands of other rural women across the country and their children. Through the elimination of mother to child transmission (E-MTCT) services, couples are automatically enrolled on an option B plus (B+), a comprehensive medical support service aimed at reducing the risk of the unborn baby from contracting HIV while empowering the parent to good positive living habits. Michaela, further stressed that the issuance of a CD4 PIMA machine to Apac regional hospital comes at a time when a component of FACS, another type of CD4 count machine only identified as the Automatic Pipette, on which samples are dropped and results processed was broken down. While reacting to the breakdown question of the facility, Michael said, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Health Central Public Health Laboratory to handle maintenance of all these medical equipments. “The ministry is aware of this setback and a team of expert has been sent to Apac to sort out the mess,” Micheal said. Northern Uganda Health Integrated Services (NU-HITES) while working with the Ministry Of Health has contracted a private firm called CNAPSIS, to run CD4 services through a parallel hub system for all ART sites to scale up identification of HIV clients who are eligible for enrolment into Anti-retroviral treatment (ART). Despite continuous struggle by the government of Uganda to combat HIV/AIDS and bring about zero infection among the populace, while meeting the set millennium development goals, new cases of infection are registered every day thus immediate plans and options to reducing the trauma caused by the virus needs to be set aside.
However, the challenge is that these CD4 machines can only handle as few as 15 samples or less per day as opposed to the huge number of clients that need the service. CNAPSIS will collects samples twice a week and then transports these samples to a private lab in Lira for testing and also deliver back results to the same facilities including Apac hospital. Through this arrangement, HIV positive clients in Apac hospital and other health facilities in the sub region will be able to receive CD4 count services for majority of their clients.
Michael revealed that Northern Uganda Health Integrated Services (NU-HITES) and National Medical Stores (NMS) will be supporting the facilities with the timely delivery of cartridges to all the sites. “At the moment there is no stock out of cartridges and all the machines in the 33 health facilities in the region have functional CD4 PIMA machines,” Michael said. An indicator that more people can be supported simultaneously without the hustle of traveling as it was in the past.
Hon Richard Todwong, Member of Parliament, Nwoya district who also doubles as Minister without portfolio, in charge of political mobilization in the office of the President said the PIMA machine will help the vast majority of people in Northern Uganda living with HIV/AIDS get to know more on their health status and adapt to positive living behaviours.
Due to the fact that National HIV/AIDS statistic stands at 8%, in comparison to the case of Northern Uganda running at 11% far beyond the national average, Todwong stated , “We need to increase our awareness campaign in the fight against HIV/AIDS in our community if we are to save our youth generation from being wiped away by HIV/AIDS”. The high rate of the scourge in the region is due to the long period of confinement in internally displaced people’s (IDP’s) camps where hundreds and thousands of people in the region were restricted for close to 20 years, a fact that led to the breakdown of community social fabric.
According to Todwong, as long as people remained idle in the IPD Camps without any productive activities, they were taken up with petty vices like engaging in extra marital relationships, early sex scandals and rampant cases of alcoholism with the hope of taking away their life misery thus acting centrally to the norms of the society, fuelling the spread of the scourge further in the region.
With the current discovery of oil in the region, the legislator express worry over the continued influx sex workers in the region more especially in between Nwoya and Pakwach, where those involved in the oil exploration business as well as truck drivers who make stop overnight are being targeted.
Michael appealed to the residents in the region to embrace voluntary counselling and testing and take advantage of finding the CD4 counts since they now have the service within their communities. As the locals continue to embrace this new healthcare technology in the region, the benefits from the use of the Pima machines in the region will manifest.