Remarks by Ambassador Lisa Peterson: Handover of CDC Lab Sample Transport Vehicles – National Blood Transfusion Service

Great Seal of the United States

Representatives from the Ministry of Health;
ICAP Representatives;
All Protocols observed –

Sanibonani.

Following many successful World AIDS Day tributes, it is a pleasure to join you for this handover ceremony of lab sample transport vehicles. In the broader sense, they symbolize where Swaziland is headed on the road to stronger health service delivery and epidemic control. These incremental advancements play a key role in fulfilling the King’s Vision 2022 and meeting Sustainable Development Goals on health and well-being.

The current fleet of vehicles were suffering breakdowns and delays in getting time-sensitive samples to the lab. These new vehicles will help increase access to HIV viral load testing for patients across the country by strengthening the sample referral network among health workers and remapping transport routes for greater efficiency.

Moreover, the Ministry of Health has committed to covering the operational expenses, which include costs for drivers, maintenance, and fuel. With this level of investment from partners, the lifespans of these vehicles – and those of the people they serve – will only increase.

The U.S. government’s collaboration with the Ministry of Health and our many partners illustrates the power of deliberate and sustained action. PEPFAR’s support to the people and the government of Swaziland has been unparalleled in its capacity to deliver clear, measurable and transformative impact. So, I also want to applaud our incredible PEPFAR team, whose energy and dedication to fighting against HIV and TB knows no bounds.

There are countless ways that PEPFAR works with national, regional, and community-level partners to strengthen health management systems. From improving availability of quality lab services to equipping lab technicians with training and mentoring, we are with you on the ground in nearly every corner of Swaziland. Without reliable laboratories here, Swaziland only increases its dependence on other countries for critical testing. That’s why we have expanded our partnership with the Swaziland Health Laboratory Services on its national sample referral system and laboratory information system. An electronic laboratory information system has the potential to improve work productivity, enhance the quality of sample referrals, and decrease turnaround time.

At Southern Africa Nazarene University, PEPFAR funds comprehensive pre-service training and other technical assistance to medical laboratory specialists. Through these and other interventions, we are supporting the development of a strong laboratory workforce that can absorb and respond to clients’ needs.

Sustainability matters and our overall goals as an embassy align with this mandate. Our focus on capacity building drives PEPFAR support for over 80 essential laboratory positions, which includes phlebotomists, viral load technologists, and members of the National Sample Transport System, among others. This robust network of experts is equipped with the skills, resources, and knowledge to lead Swaziland’s laboratory institutions to the next level. To ensure these trained professionals maintain their skills, PEPFAR, with technical assistance from ICAP, is also spearheading the creation of Continuous Professional Development Guidelines and a database for laboratory technicians.

Next year, we will celebrate fifteen years since PEPFAR began. Former U.S. President George W. Bush, whose administration created PEPFAR, visited Botswana earlier this year and reflected on PEPFAR’s impact since 2003:

“Today, because of the commitment of many foreign governments, investments by partners, the resilience of the African people, and the generosity of the American people, nearly 12 million lives have been saved. And nearly 2 million babies have been born HIV-free to infected mothers.”

In Swaziland, we are especially appreciative of the unwavering support and commitment by the Ministry of Health and other partners to fight this battle. Now, our work begins anew as we face the last mile towards an AIDS-free generation.

Siyabonga.