CDC's Laboratory Programs in South Africa
Quality laboratory testing is an essential building block of the clinical diagnosis scheme – as accurate and timely clinical laboratory services facilitates earlier diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV, staging, identification of adverse drug events, and opportunistic infections including the monitoring of response to therapy. The rapid scale-up of HIV care and treatment in South Africa (SA), however, has placed an overwhelming demand on the public health laboratory services, which are already burdened with shortages in human resources, inadequate infrastructure, and limited quality systems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention South Africa (CDC-SA) Laboratory Branch supports various national priority programs aimed at increasing laboratory diagnostic capacity and quality to facilitate improved public health laboratory services to the South African public. Key program areas include: supporting quality management systems, including quality assurance for point of care testing; supporting laboratory based research, surveys, and surveillance; supporting the development of laboratory strategic plans and policies, and; supporting the continued development of a skilled laboratory work force, including pre- and in-service training.
A greater proportion of the Laboratory Branch’s programs are implemented through, the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS), a parastatal organization and the sole provider of diagnostic pathology services to the public sector in SA. The NHLS has been mandated by the SA government to provide quality, affordable, and sustainable laboratory and related public health services. The strengthening of laboratory systems to ensure increased accessibility to laboratory testing and improved quality of available services at all tiers of the health system is, thus, a necessity. Additionally Laboratory Branch programs are implemented through comprehensive district support partners, such as The Aurum Institute, Beyond Zero (formerly known as the Institute for Youth Development SA, or IYDSA), Health Systems Trust (HST), and others.