An investigation of fingerstick blood collection for pointof- care HIV-1 viral load monitoring in South Africa
Background: Viral load (VL) quantification is an important tool in determining newly developed drug resistance or problems with adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in HIV-positive patients. VL monitoring is becoming the standard of care in many resource-limited settings. Testing in resource-limited settings may require sampling by fingerstick because of general shortages of skilled phlebotomists and the expense of venepuncture supplies and problems with their distribution.
Objective: To assess the feasibility and ease of collecting 150 μL capillary blood needed for the use of a novel collection device following a classic fingerstick puncture.
Methods: Patients were recruited by the study nurse upon arrival for routine ART monitoring at the Themba Lethu Clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa. Each step of the fingerstick and blood collection protocol was observed, and their completion or omission was recorded.
Results: One hundred and three patients consented to the study, of whom three were excluded owing to the presence of callouses. From a total of 100 patients who consented and were enrolled, 98% of collection attempts were successful and 86% of participants required only one fingerstick to successfully collect 150 μL capillary blood. Study nurse adherence to the fingerstick protocol revealed omissions in several steps that may lower the success rate of capillary blood collection and reduce the performance of a subsequent VL assay.
Conclusion: The findings of this study support the feasibility of collecting 150 μL of capillary blood via fingerstick for point-of-care HIV-1 VL testing in a resource-limited setting.
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