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ASCP Shows Its Far-Reaching Impact on PEPFAR Countries at International AIDS Conference

Monday, August 27, 2012

“With a comparatively small investment of time and resources through these programs, ASCP makes a considerable impact on global health.”
—Ian Lemieux, the Fenway Institute, Boston

The laboratory is an integral part in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of HIV and related diseases, said panelist Ian Lemieux, RN, MPH, MLS(ASCP)CM, at a satellite meeting hosted by ASCP at the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., last month.

“It is important, as we move forward in establishing new tools for the prevention and treatment of HIV, that the lab is continually incorporated into this effort,” said Mr. Lemieux, Clinical Project Manager and Research Nurse for the Fenway Institute, Boston. “We cannot apply existing treatments without fully understanding the medical implications for each patient.”

He shared his perspective as a volunteer consultant who works with the ASCP Global Institute on projects with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). ASCP, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control, has trained laboratory professionals, provided technical assistance, and built laboratory infrastructure in 19 PEPFAR countries since 2005. 

What ASCP has been able to do with PEPFAR, he said, is to leave behind an effective, solid set of programs for training, workforce development and quality, and to improve patient outcomes.    

“With a comparatively small investment of time and resources through these programs, ASCP makes a considerable impact on global health,” said Mr. Lemieux.

As an ASCP consultant, Mr. Lemieux has traveled to Swaziland, Tanzania, and Namibia to deliver in-country training to laboratory professionals on topics such as laboratory safety, point-of-care testing, phlebotomy, and program monitoring and evaluation. The scientists he has trained then train other laboratory professionals in their respective countries.   

Another panelist, Charles Massambu, MD, Director of Lab Services for Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, discussed the positive impact that ASCP’s training of trainers has had in Tanzania. He noted that hundreds of laboratory professionals in hospitals across the country have now received training in these areas through ASCP.

In addition, Dr. Massambu discussed ASCP’s pre-service education programs for colleges and universities in PEPFAR countries. The pre-service education programs increase the pipeline of highly trained laboratory professionals, thereby addressing the workforce shortage. 

With such rapid advances in medicine and laboratory technology, most students do not have the opportunity to participate in a strong clinical rotation, said Shannon Heard Castle, Director of ASCP Global Outreach, who moderated the panel discussion. Upon graduation, these students are not fully prepared to work in the laboratory setting, she said.

As a result of the ASCP’s collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW), a situation analysis and assessment has been conducted in 13 laboratory schools in Tanzania and Zanzibar. Additionally, ASCP has supported Tanzania in developing teaching guides for certificate and diploma laboratory schools over the past two years, Dr. Massambu said.   

Another initiative that the ASCP Global Outreach Institute has focused on is to assist PEPFAR countries in working toward accreditation of their laboratories. Very few laboratories in these countries are accredited. Ms. Castle said that accreditation has many implications, such as improved results of laboratory tests, enhancement of working environments, and increased motivation of laboratory professionals.

The third panelist at the ASCP satellite meeting, Tsehaynesh Messele, MD, CEO of the newly formed African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), explained the work of the nonprofit, a pan-African organization which ASCP Global Outreach helped to establish. ASLM is committed to promoting laboratory medicine within Africa.   

Overall, Mr. Lemieux underscored the importance of accurate laboratory testing performed by appropriately trained staff. “The sooner we identify a client who is HIV positive, the sooner we can get them into care,” he said. “Then we track the infection and determine the most safe and effective treatments.  The laboratory is a critical player in this work.”