ASLM in New York to support point-of-care device scale-up efforts in Africa
Representatives from the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), UNICEF and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Inc. (CHAI) came together 17-18 August 2017 in New York City, United States, to review progress to date on the implementation of a joint point-of-care project and to refine coordination mechanisms to achieve greater impact.
“This project has brought capable institutions together with one purpose – increasing access to HIV diagnostic testing in order to accelerate decision making by healthcare providers,” said Dr Ali Elbireer, CEO of ASLM.
In November 2012, Unitaid, in partnership with CHAI and UNICEF, launched the point-of-care HIV diagnostics project “Accelerating Access and Integration of Innovative Point of Care HIV Technologies in National Diagnostics Programmes” in seven sub-Saharan African countries: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. This tripartite initiative supported the introduction and implementation of point-of-care HIV diagnostics for CD4 staging and monitoring, early infant diagnosis, and viral load testing. In October 2016, the initiative extended its geographical reach to include three additional countries in West and Central Africa (Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal), and added a fourth partner, ASLM.
The objective of the point-of-care HIV diagnostics project is to accelerate decision making by healthcare providers by enhancing the accessibility to HIV diagnostic testing. By accelerating early diagnosis, the project will facilitate the early initiation of treatment for infected newborns, leading to a reduction in HIV morbidity and mortality in this group. Enhanced access to viral load testing will also improve patient follow up and timely identification of treatment failure.
Commenting on next steps, Dr. Trevor Peter, Senior Director of the Laboratory Services Team at CHAI, highlighted the need to ensure that the pilot projects for point-of-care devices should move into national scale-up plans.
“We need to ensure that the lessons learnt from these evaluations and pilots of point-of-care devices are translated into best practices that will guide the countries in rolling out point-of-care and bring testing closer to the patient,” added Dr. Chewe Luo, Chief of the HIV/AIDS Programme Division at UNICEF, in her closing remarks.
By: Mr. Nqobile Ndlovu, ASLM
Editors: Ms. Bethanie Rammer, ASLM; Dr. Ali Elbireer, ASLM