Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
MPILO Central Hospital in Bulawayo will soon be certified by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) after attaining global standards in viral load testing for HIV and Aids.
The development means results coming from one of the biggest referral hospitals in the country will be globally recognised.
The viral load testing allows health workers to assess the effectiveness of medication given to HIV and Aids patients and the quality attained at Mpilo Central Hospital has been lacking in the country.
The hospital’s chief medical laboratory scientist, Mr Abel Waldman, revealed this yesterday during United States of America Deputy Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mr Thomas Hastings’ visit to Mpilo Central Hospital on a tour of his government supported projects in the fight against HIV and Aids in the country.
The US Embassy is supporting the HIV and Aids fight to the tune of US$160 million this year through its President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) among other interventions.
“We are glad to say that with your support we have been doing the largest number of viral load tests in the country. Our average monthly production has been in excess of 12 000. While doing so, we have also been working to improve the quality of our work. With this, we are glad to say that also with your support the standard of our viral load testing has improved to the extent that we are about to be ISO certified. This was but a dream in the past years. However, with your support it is about to become a reality,” said Mr Waldman.
He said through US Embassy funding, they have received Information Technology equipment with motorcycles to enable collection and delivery of specimens with ease.
In response, Deputy Ambassador Hastings hailed workers in the health sector who have committed themselves towards ending the HIV and Aids scourge.
He said despite limited resources compared to other African countries, Zimbabwe has done exceedingly well towards meeting global goals in ending HIV and Aids.
“Thank you for the important work that you are doing. It is very encouraging to see how much has been achieved in this country despite the difficulties. We are not blind to the very difficult situation the country is going through right now both in terms of the medical profession and in terms of water and electricity which are absolute fundamentals. But it seems you have not allowed that to slow you down,” Deputy Ambassador Hastings said.
He said the successes the country has achieved can be attributed to high levels of human resources and high-quality support from their implementing partners including the Ministry of Health and Child Care.
Deputy Ambassador Hastings said ISO certification is an endorsement of progress being made in the country to end HIV and Aids.
“It indicates that at the highest level of global standards, the laboratory is meeting those standards, international certification system for safety, for proper procedures, for proper records keeping, this lab at Mpilo Central Hospital is meeting those standards, or will supposedly be meeting them very soon. This is a real accomplishment for this hospital, for this facility,” he said.
Deputy Ambassador Hastings said viral load testing is important in tracking effectiveness of medicines being administered to HIV patients.
He said the US Embassy channelled US$8,7 million towards the equipping of viral load testing laboratories countrywide from its US$160 million PEPFAR fund.
“I came specifically to tour laboratory facilities that are part of the HIV work that is supported by the PEPFAR. Specifically, if a person knows that they have the HIV virus and are on treatment they have to be tested to see that the virus is suppressed, that’s the final part of the treatment to make sure that it is being effective. Those tests have to come here to the laboratory for the high technology testing which is done to find out whether the virus is indeed being suppressed and the treatment is effective,” Deputy Ambassador Hastings said.
He said it was very interesting to note the integration of high technology and low technology to deliver effective results as was done at Mpilo Central Hospital.
High technology is employed at the laboratory while low technology involves motorcycle teams’ visit to clinics to collect viral load samples for testing without compromising quality specimen. — @nqotshili