In a bid to ensure that appropriate laboratory infrastructure and programmes are available to support HIV and AIDS surveillance, training activities and quality assurance nationally, the US government has provided $250,000 worth of equipment for the National Reference Laboratory (NRL).
In her statement at the handing over ceremony on Saturday at NRL, at Lakka, the laboratory’s local consultant Dr Isata Wurie explained that the project started in 2003 in order to support the HIV and AIDS prevention programme in Sierra Leone.
She averred that the US embassy under the ambassador at the time contributed to the effort of the HIV and AIDS health sector response team at the National AIDS Secretariat by providing technical support in the establishment of the NRL.
The technical support then, Dr Wurie continued, “was supported by the American embassy through the centre of disease control, through its project [in Ivory Coast] and the Association for Public Health Laboratory in the USA.”
She revealed that as their consultant in West Africa in medical laboratory, “I personally requested that Sierra Leone be included in [my list]”
“This was approved… Sierra Leone is one of the laboratories that I worked with to upscale its NRL and also to upscale quality assurance.”
Dr Wurie also highlighted her terms of reference for the two focus areas identified and these she noted “are quality assurance testing and surveillance.”
The NRL manager, Sylvester S. Kamanda, accentuated that they were gratified for the equipment the US government had provided for the laboratory.
This would assist us, he said, “especially in the area of quality assurance and surveillance assessment.”
Mr Kamanda pointed out that the laboratory needs to be sustained. “We hope the donors would always come to our aid and continue to sustain our laboratory,” he said.
The director of NAS, Brima Kargbo, stated that “HIV testing is very vital in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” noting that before now testing was going on in the country in a very much uncoordinated manner.
Dr Kargbo stated that on June 15 parliament passed into law the HIV and AIDS Control Act of 2007.
“Very soon there are going to be accredited centres to be doing the HIV and AIDS testing”, he stated adding that this was a positive step to forestall testing errors.
In his statement, the chief medical officer, Dr Arthur Williams explained that the involvement of the US government to fight HIV and AIDS in Sierra Leone started with ambassador Peter Chaveas in 2003.
The medical director explained that a commission was setup which conducted a comprehensive assessment of the HIV and AIDS situation in the country, and to advice on the potential areas of US Government involvement.
He noted that one of the key recommendations from the assessment, “is to upgrade the national HIV Reference Laboratory so that it can fulfil its role and implement a National Quality Assurance System involving all public and private laboratories.”