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Uganda seeks more laboratories for viral load tests


FILE PHOTO: Blood sample

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Fourteen laboratories have so far been internationally accredited to offer viral load and Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) testing for HIV.

Viral load which is a test that determines the amount of the virus in the blood of an HIV positive person is one of the initiatives that have been put in place for the achievement of the UNAIDS 90 90 90 targets. The targets seek to ensure that by 2020, at least 90 percent of people know their status, 90 per cent of those that test positive are enrolled on treatment and 90 per cent of these achieve viral suppression.

According to Dr Susan Nabadda Ndidde, the Director of the National Health Laboratories Services (NHLS), the target is for the country to have at least 25 laboratories of the 100 laboratory hubs that have been identified to do viral loads tests across the country by next year.

While the target is to have all the 1.4 million Ugandans living with the virus tested for viral load, Nabadda says they are currently handling about 10,000 samples partly because they have a funding gap of about 60 per cent.

She said even as they receive some support from donors, laboratory service requires a huge investment to take care apart from doing tests of proper waste management, do quality control tests, proper sample transportation and keep a proper records keeping system which are all expensive initiatives.

Dr Diana Atwiine, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health said the biggest challenge is consumables for the laboratory service to be available all the time and across all the 2,500 government laboratories across the country. For now, the 100 hubs for viral load testing across the country have handle samples collected by at least 40 health facilities each.

She said this while closing a three-day workshop of laboratory technicians from 13 countries in Africa who had gathered in Kampala to share experience on best practices. The workshop was held under the theme, “Building resilient laboratory systems in Africa to rapidly scale up Viral load and EID services to reach UNAIDS 90 90 90 targets”.



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