VIRA: A Low-Cost HIV Viral Load Quantification System

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Big Ideas LogoViral load testing is increasingly supported as a necessary component of the HIV management cycle. Regular monitoring for treatment failure by a viral load test is endorsed by the World Health Organization as essential to a globally sustainable treatment plan. Tijuana has been identified as the potential site of an HIV epidemic due to both its rising incidence of HIV cases and to its disproportionately large populations of high-risk sex workers and intravenous drug users. A novel detection system called VIRA has been developed to make the viral load test financially and logistically feasible for Tijuana health clinics to incorporate into their treatment and containment strategies. VIRA combines a low-cost centrifuge, automated RNA extraction device, paper-based genetic circuit, and smartphone-based photometric quantification system to yield a fast, easy, and inexpensive point-of- care viral load test which may be implemented in Tijuana and readily adapted to other low-resource settings.