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Advanced HIV test yet to make Assam debut

GUWAHATI: As the state observes World AIDS Day on Thursday, there is little clarity on when government hospitals will start using the Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), an advanced test to detect the disease.

The prohibitive cost of the test device and the lack of manpower to operate it are the factors leading to the delay in NAAT implementation in the state.

NAAT, which was approved for use in 2002 by the FDA, can detect HIV infections in blood donors earlier than other screening tests because it detects viral genes rather than antibodies or antigens.

The appearance of antibodies, which happens after an infected donor's immune system responds to the virus, requires time. Similarly, detection of antigens also requires time as it needs a higher level of virus to appear in the bloodstream. In both cases, a 'window period' is created during which a donor can be infected but test negative for HIV.

On Tuesday, a source told TOI that the state government was ready to start NAAT in government hospitals but would need the Centre's help to install the sophisticated testing device.

TOI has learned that in 2015 a proposal had been sent to the state government to make NAAT available in government hospitals and blood banks but not much headway has been made.

"Besides the cost, NAAT requires expert handling. Assam lacks the resources to operate the device," said an expert.

The NAAT machine costs around Rs 2 to 3 crore.

Source:  http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/Advanced-HIV-test-yet-to-make-Assam-debut/articleshow/55716508.cms