Same Day Laboratory Results Saves Lives in Ethiopia

A severely ill and bedridden woman is scared and alone but knows her only chance of survival is to get to the local health center for medical help. She pleads with her neighbors to help transport her there and undergoes an invasive examination only to be told she will have to come back in ten days to receive her test results and proceed with treatment.  She returns home to wait, dejected, and hopes she can summon the courage and resources to return to the health center in ten days for the care she needs.

This used to be a common scenario at local health centers in Ethiopia as laboratory samples had to be sent to the regional or hospital level for processing and analysis. Recognizing this excessive turnaround time was costly and delayed treatment initiation, the US Agency for International Development’s HIV/AIDS Care and Support Program (HCSP), led by Management Sciences for Health, committed to the establishment of functional local laboratories at HCSP-supported health centers.

Through partnerships with local NGOs, all health centers in Addis Ababa were fully equipped with clinical chemistry machines, reagents, and other essential supplies. Furthermore, HCSP supported the training of laboratory professionals at the local level and provides ongoing technical support to health center laboratories. Bringing reliable laboratory services closer to the patient reduces turnaround time for test results and improves quality of care.

An examination of five HCSP-supported health centers in Addis Ababa, one year after the establishment of local laboratory services, showed 34% more laboratory tests being conducted than when those health centers were forced to rely on regional and hospital labs for processing. Additionally, four of the five health centers examined were providing same-day laboratory results to patients.

Functional health center laboratories ensure patients will be able to receive an accurate diagnosis and the treatment they need in a timely fashion.  In hard to reach communities where simply getting to the health center is a challenge for many patients, the availability of reliable local laboratory services can mean the difference between life and death.  

To stem Ethiopia's AIDS epidemic and treat those infected, MSH is implementing the USAID-funded HIV & AIDS Care and Support Program (HCSP). HCSP is strengthening the health system and rapidly scaling up diagnostic and treatment services for HIV & AIDS and tuberculosis in five targeted regions in Ethiopia.

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