HIV Viral Load Monitoring in Resource-Limited Regions: Optional or Necessary?
Authors: Alexandra Calmy, Nathan Ford, Bernard Hirschel, Steven J. Reynolds, Lut Lynen, Eric Goemaere, Felipe Garcia de la Vega, Luc Perrin, and William Rodriguez
Although it is a standard practice in high-income countries, determination of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) load is not recommended in developing countries because of the costs and technical constraints. As more and more countries establish capacity to provide second-line therapy, and as costs and technological constraints associated with viral load testing decrease, the question of whether determination of the viral load is necessary deserves attention. Viral load testing could increase in importance as a guide for clinical decisions on when to switch to second-line treatment and on how to optimize the duration of the first-line treatment regimen. In addition, the viral load is a particularly useful tool for monitoring adherence to treatment, performing sentinel surveillance, and diagnosing HIV infection in children aged 18 months. Rather than considering viral load data to be an unaffordable luxury, efforts should be made to ensure that viral load testing becomes affordable, simple, and easy to use in resource-limited settings.