In order to help combat HIV in Swaziland, the United States Government, through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and with funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), supported the refurbishment of a laboratory and provided equipment for the Kingdom of Swaziland’s first Medical Laboratory Sciences (MLS) program. This donation from the United States Government supports the Ministry of Health’s critical need to provide better quality and more extensive laboratory services in Swaziland. Laboratory Services are essential to ensuring support for initiation of HIV care and treatment.
With no in-country training program in laboratory sciences previously, potential Swazi laboratory professionals were required to seek education outside the country. Through PEPFAR support, a consultant was engaged from 2010 – 2011 to look into the feasibility of establishing a domestic training program for laboratory personnel. The consultant helped develop a laboratory sciences curriculum which was completed and launched in 2012. The new MLS program will produce sufficient, trained laboratory personnel to ensure access to quality laboratory testing at all levels of the Swazi health system. It will also allow healthcare workers to more effectively monitor patients receiving Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
In addition to developing the curriculum, refurbishing the laboratory, and providing the necessary equipment, another CDC/PEPFAR-funded partner, the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), procured 30 microscopes for SANU to support practical training in the newly re-furbished lab. This equipment will significantly enhance the training students receive and will help improve the quality of patient care in Swaziland. Prior to this donation, SANU only had one microscope which had to be shared among 30 students. The new microscopes and other equipment will allow more practical training time for each student, ensuring that they have the skills they need to conduct more accurate analyses of specimens.
This program is the first Bachelor-level MLS program in Swaziland. The first class of 30 critically-needed laboratory professionals will graduate in the 2016/2017 academic year.