It is a pleasure for me to be with you today at this handover ceremony. This beautiful laboratory was made possible thanks to the generosity of the American people, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR. Since 2007, the U.S. Government has partnered with the Government and the people of the Kingdom of Swaziland to achieve our common goal of an AIDS-free Generation.
I would like to commend the Ministry of Health leadership for having the vision to support long-term sustainable response to laboratory services by working with SANU to establish this Medical Laboratory Services Program. While laboratory personnel are perhaps less visible to the general public, the work they do is a core pillar in the national HIV response. Lab personnel are on the front line along with nurses, doctors and other health care workers. What we see here today is the result of a partnership for strengthening lab capacity that goes back to 2010.
I am extremely proud to note the U.S. Government commitment to this partnership with the people and Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland. First, through PEPFAR support, a consultant was engaged to assess the feasibility of establishing an in-country training program for laboratory personnel, which resulted in the development of a curriculum which was completed and launched in 2012.
Second, through the PEPFAR-funded CDC Ministry of Health Cooperative Agreement SANU received support to renovate a science lab for the Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) program which was completed in October, 2014. Third, another PEPFAR/CDC-funded partner, the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) has procured 30 microscopes for SANU to support practical training in the newly re-furbished laboratory. Another 15 microscopes and other laboratory equipment have been procured under the CDC/MOH agreement and we look forward to their delivery soon.
Now, along with this refurbished and furnished building, PEPFAR support is making it possible for every student in the MLS program to have access to a microscope for their practical assignments and training. As these students graduate in the 2016/2017 academic year and enter the workforce, I am confident that their training in this facility will translate into improved quality of care for Swazi citizens.
While this is an exciting day and represents tremendous progress in the country’s efforts to build a quality health care work force, there are still challenges ahead. I look to the leadership of the SANU, to commit to supporting the necessary faculty and staff required to train this and future cohorts of laboratory personnel. I look to the Swaziland Medical and Dental Council to approve the establishment of the Medical Laboratory Council, so that there is a professional framework in place to govern the work of these MLS graduates.
I would like to close by emphasizing the U.S. Government’s commitment to partnering with Swaziland in achieving the AIDS-free generation. Unfortunately, I am unable to remain with you for the rest of this beautiful program so would like to turn over the microscopes to the Honorable Minister of Health before I depart.
Thank you so much.