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ROUTINE VIRAL LOAD TESTING INCREASING-HEALTH MINISTER


The Minister of Health, Mr. Nyapane Kaya says Lesotho has experienced a rise in routine viral load testing from 6,232 tests in June 2017 to 14,800 in June 2017.

This he said during the launch of a M2.3 million refurbished Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at Motebang Hospital in Leribe.

Minister Kaya said the increase requires rapid expansion of testing to meet demand and that the new viral load platform at Motebang Hospital Laboratory will run 280 specimens in an 8 hour shift, which amounts to 70,000 tests per year. 

He stressed that Leribe will be able to provide viral load testing promptly to ensure appropriate management of anti-retro viral therapy.

Mr. Kaya said the viral load monitoring is critical to maintain viral suppression and improve quality of life for people living with HIV as well as preventing new infections in order for Lesotho to reach the 2020 targets of 90 per cent viral suppression.

He described the launch of the laboratory at Motebang Hospital as a great achievement, commending the Motebang Laboratory and University Research Company (URC)-Lesotho for leading the refurbishment work.

He also thanked the USA government for their continued financial and technical support as well as ensuring quality of care for all people living in Lesotho. He said the Ministry of Health is committed to providing best quality service for patients.

Also speaking was the US Ambassador to Lesotho, Mr. Matthew Harrington who said treatment is essential to controlling the HIV/AIDS pandemic, however noting that it (treatment) requires timely diagnosis and monitoring.

He therefore said a 'quality-assured laboratory' such as the one at Motebang Hospital can make a big difference in reducing 'the burden of HIV' on patients as well as enabling health providers to provide better management of HIV.

He added that the diagnostic laboratory helps stem the spread of virus by monitoring the viral load of people living with HIV who are on anti-retroviral treatment (ART), saying with 25 per cent HIV prevalence and more than 30,000 people on, the establishment of the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at Motebang Hospital will improve access to viral load monitoring. 

Again, he noted that the laboratory will also increase adherence to ART and guide adjustments of treatment regiments when needed.

Mr. Harrington applauded Lesotho for being the first African country to implement the 'Test and Treat' campaign for HIV positive people. He remarked that since the launch in April 2016, the number of HIV positive Basotho beginning treatment for the first time has increased substantially.

He said Basotho came forward to be tested for HIV knowing that if they were positive they would be enrolled on treatment right way instead of having to wait until they were sick.

He remarked that due to the collaboration between Lesotho and the US, Lesotho is making progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He said since 2007 more than 140,000 people living with HIV are currently on ART and that 90 per cent of 175,497 viral load tests conducted were virally suppressed.

The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Mr. Monaphathi Maraka said the Laboratory is a symbol of a long partnership between Lesotho and the US, saying the US has contributed immensely towards the improvement of the livelihood of Basotho through various programmes implemented in the country.

He therefore appealed for commitment from Motebang Hospital staff, urging them to adopt new and effective methods for improved health services.

Speaking on behalf of the District Health Manager, Mrs 'Mathaabe Ranthimo said specimen will no longer be taken to the national laboratory and thus reducing the time taken for results to be available from four months to a week, adding that the laboratory will help increase the ability in HIV/AIDS diagnosis hence boost for the Ministry of Health and Motebang Hospital to provide quality service and ensuring a HIV/AIDS free generation.

She commented that the establishment of the laboratory came at an opportune time when the Hospital is striving for quality service and excellence, hence appealed to hospital staff to work hard with the resources available for the betterment of health services in Leribe and the country at large.

The Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at Motebang Hospital is expected to process more than 45,000 blood samples annually.

 

Source: LENA 12/09/2017

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