The Ministry of Health (MOH) and its stakeholders gathered at the Mbabane Hospital Laboratory Complex today for an official handover of five customized vehicles donated to the Swaziland Health Laboratory Service (SHLS) by the United States Government through its President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program. Minister of Health Sibongile Ndlela-Simelane attended the ceremony along with the U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland, Makila James.
The United States Government, through PEPFAR, purchased the customized vehicles worth $236,784 (approximately E2,938,077) as part of their support for the Ministry of Health’s National Sample Transport System (NSTS). In 2009, to help improve access to HIV Laboratory diagnostic and treatment monitoring at the primary health care level, PEPFAR assisted the MOH in establishing a national samples transport system (NSTS).
The NSTS now serves 118 rural clinics and 5 hubs. The efficient operations of this system are critical in ensuring that all patients receive the laboratory services necessary for ART initiation and patient monitoring. Unfortunately, the national transport system had become overstretched, which negatively impacted the efficiency of their service. These new vehicles will help the lab to provide reliable and timely sample collection and to quickly return lab results to people living with HIV, including HIV positive pregnant women. These additional vehicles will increase the number of sites supported by the NSTS and will decrease the turnaround time for test results delivery to the rural clinics from 3-4 days to 1-2 days.
The United States Government is steadfast in its commitment to support the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland’s national HIV/AIDS response. This partnership has enabled rapid scale up of early Antiretroviral Viral Therapy (ART) and Preventing-Mother-To-Child-Transmission (PMTCT). This strong collaborative partnership between the Ministry of Health, the United States Government, and other collaborating partners is important to the success of the national HIV/AIDS response and to keeping the Swazi people, especially mothers and their children, healthy.
Recognizing the HIV/AIDS pandemic as one of the great health challenges of our time, the United States Government launched PEPFAR in 2003. It is the largest international public health initiative aimed at a single disease that any nation has ever undertaken. PEPFAR funds also help alleviate suffering from other diseases across the global health spectrum. Through PEPFAR support, Swaziland has received over $185 million over the past five years to support comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment services.