Shpëtim Qyra1, Mimoza Basho1, Roland Bani1, Marjeta Dervishi, Klajdi Topulli1, Redona Dudushi1, Silva Bino1,2
1 Institute of Public Health, Tirana, Albania;
2 Faculty of Medicine, University of Medicine, Tirana, Albania.
At the beginning of world HIV epidemic, WHO advised the Ministry of Health to assess the HIV related situation in the country, and to set up the necessary structures to deal with potential epidemic. In March 1993, a team of specialists was established to continuously monitor the epidemiological situation HIV infection. In 1987, the National Committee and the National Program for the Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS in Albania were established. The diagnosis of HIV infection started in 1988 with the establishment of the Laboratory at the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology (IHE), and a sero-epidemiological study was conducted for persons considered at risk at that time. The same year, the Infectious Diseases Service was designated as the country’s Reference Center for the follow-up and treatment of HIV infected persons.
In 1992, was established the HIV screening lab at the national blood transfusion center, and the next year (1993) started HIV screening of blood supply in all blood banks in Albania, using rapid anti-HIV-1/2 tests.
In 2000, the parliament approved the Law on ‘Prevention and control HIV/AIDS in the Republic of Albania’, and in 2003 was developed the first National Strategy for Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDS in Albania. These documents considered HIV/AIDS prevention and control, treatment and care to be a multidimensional problem involving health, social, cultural, and economic issues.
In 2004, the ARV treatment is offered to the patients diagnosed with HIV infection. In 2016 NAT (Nucleic Acid Test) blood testing for HIV, HBV, and HCV was introduced, contributing to increase blood safety.
Evolution of HIV testing
The first HIV diagnostic tests (rapid tests in blood banks, and ELISA in laboratories) identified IgG antibodies for both types of HIV-1/2 virus. In t 2000, 4-th generation ELISA tests (HIV1/2 Ag/Ab) were introduced, which identify IgM and IgG antibodies for virus types, and p24 antigen for HIV-1 type as well. These combined tests with high sensitivity and make possible an early diagnosis, within two weeks after the infection with the HIV virus. The confirmation test used in Albania is Western Bloot. All HIV-diagnosed cases in Albania are of type 1 HIV, and few cases are diagnosed with HIV1 / HIV2 co-infection.
Keywords: Albania, diagnostic tests, history, HIV/AIDS.