ASCP Collaborates to Open New TB Testing Center in Swaziland
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
To combat the deadly combination of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) decimating its population, a new TB testing center opened on Jan. 26, 2012, in Mbabane, Swaziland. It is a collaboration of ASCP, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), University Research Corporation, and Doctors Without Borders. The facility, with high technology laboratory equipment, access control, and computerized laboratory to match the requirements of the World Health Organization (WHO), is housed within the five-story National Reference Laboratory.
Swaziland has the world’s most severe HIV/AIDS epidemic, affecting 26.3 percent of its adult population between 15 and 29 years old and 15 percent of children under the age of 15. Due to their weakened immune systems, HIV patients are more vulnerable to TB. Health officials estimate 50 percent of Swaziland’s HIV patients also have TB.
“Correct diagnoses for specific types of tuberculosis are critical in order to treat Swazi patients correctly and efficiently, and turn the tide on this devastating epidemic,” said Dr. Blair Holladay, ASCP Executive Vice President. “Erecting the new TB testing facility finally allows for timely testing to assist these patients in need. Since TB—in all its forms—is highly contagious, laboratory professionals in Swaziland also have a much safer environment to conduct the tests and reverse the current paucity in testing.”
Additionally, a recent national survey about drug resistance in Swaziland revealed a high prevalence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB with new cases at 7 percent and re-treatment cases at 33.9 percent. MDR-TB is resistant to isoniazid and rifampicin, the two most powerful anti-TB drugs. Affected patients require extensive chemotherapy (up to two years in treatment) with second-line anti-TB drugs, which are more costly and produce more severe drug reactions.
The high prevalence of disease and deaths among adults in their productive working years poses a serious obstacle toward economic improvement for Swaziland. Between 1990 and 2007, the average Swazi life expectancy fell by half in great part due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
To help remedy this situation in 2009, the Government of Swaziland signed the Swaziland Partnership Framework on HIV and AIDS to be undertaken from 2009 to 2013. Established between the U.S. government and the Swazi Government for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) programs, the Partnership Framework aims to provide a more sustainable approach to fighting HIV/AIDS and other diseases such as TB. The Framework focuses on five pillars: developing a comprehensive national HIV prevention program; improving the coverage and quality of HIV-related treatment and care; mitigating the impacts of HIV/AIDS with a focus on children; increasing access to high-quality medical care; and building the human and institutional capacity to achieve and sustain these goals.