News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday January 23rd 2018

Drop-in shipping containers battle Aids crisis

Siyabonga Kalipa

Lab technician Xolisa Madikane at the Toga lab in Gugulethu where up to 70 blood samples per day are tested for CD4 counts and viral load. Photo: Siyabonga Kalipa/WCN                                                  Shipping containers, which are used for anything from hair salons to cellphone booths, are being deployed in the HIV/Aids fight, with township testing laboratories providing fast-tracked blood results that assist in patient treatment.

There are currently ten laboratories running around the country, with plans for a further five to be built. They are sponsored by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar).

In Gugulethu in Cape Town, which has nearly 3,000 people on
anti-retroviral treatment, according to the provincial health department, a container laboratory provides blood testing for CD4 count and viral loads for patients with HIV/AIDS.

It deals with more than 70 cases a day, providing crucial HIV monitoring services for the nearby public health clinic.

The lab was set up by Toga Labs, a South African molecular diagnostics laboratory, while equipment was provided by Becton, Dickinson and Company, a global medical technology company. The lab cost R2-million to set up.

Doctor in charge at the Hannan Crusaid Treatment Centre Dr Matt McNally said the clinic was the main provider of antiretroviral treatment for the people of Gugulethu and served a population of about 300,000 people.

Through the container laboratory, the clinic was able to provide accurate and efficient blood results to its clients, which was important to monitor how well treatment was working.

Blood tests were done on the premises, and the results were available through a computer link between the clinic and the laboratory.

Laboratory medical technician Xolisa Madikane said since it started operating in 2004, the laboratory had dealt with more than 5,000 cases of patients who were under HIV monitoring at the clinic.

She said: “The process of getting results is very quick because now it is walking distance from the clinic to the lab. People go to the clinic and their blood is drawn and brought to the lab.”

She said because patients were monitored on site, if abnormal results were displayed they could immediately be taken to a doctor.

A patient at the clinic, who did not want to be named, said: “I’ve been coming to the clinic for the past year or two, and I’ve always seen this container. I noticed it’s a laboratory and is the reason our results come back very quickly, which has really made life easier for
us.”

Toga Labs director Professor Des Martin said: “The doctors and staff at the clinic have a short distance to walk from the lab to the clinic, which makes it quicker for reports to be out, and another advantage is that any other chronic diseases can be treated here.”

Martin has been quoted in earlier news reports as saying the laboratory provides a model for the developing world in resource constrained settings.
– West Cape News

Tags: Gugulethu

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