German Institute Donates R15 Million Mobile Laboratory for HIV Counselling and Testing
The fight against HIV/Aids has received a massive shot in the arm after a mobile laboratory worth approximately R15 million was donated to the Western Cape Department of Health, by the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering in St. Ingbert, Germany.
The state-of-the-art mobile laboratory contains a full biomedical laboratory, a patient area, sample storage facilities, an on-board autoclave, power supply and satellite-linked communications, and will be able to screen forty (40) clients per day, totaling eight thousand (8000) screening tests per year.
Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, on an official visit to Germany, signed the donation agreement with the Institute this morning. The agreement heralds a research partnership between Fraunhofer, the Western Cape Department of Health and University of Stellenbosch. In terms of the agreement the Fraunhofer Institute will facilitate, in cooperation with the German Government, the provision of technical support by German organisations, persons and experts for the general effective operation and maintenance of the mobile laboratory unit while being piloted in the Western Cape.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT) is a global leader in the areas of medical biobanking and diagnostic technologies and has a close working relationship with the University of Stellenbosch in respect of cryotechnology and bio-research.
Botha said, "This unit will accelerate our provincial HIV Counselling and Testing campaign. We are now able to take the clinic and the laboratory to the community. This is in line with our promise to make healthcare accessible, in particular to rural communities, and improve the patient experience."
The mobile laboratory unit will be able to evaluate patients' eligibility for antiretroviral therapy (ART) and perform relevant baseline tests on the same day as diagnosing a patient's HIV infection status. This means staff will be able to refer such clients to existing ART sites of the Department in a more expedient and effective manner. In addition, the laboratory offers screening services for infectious diseases, cervical cancer and tuberculosis, which will assist to decrease the stigma associated with an "HIV-only" service.
Botha said, "The Western Cape provincial government wishes to express its appreciation and gratitude towards the Institute, and to the German Government, for its generosity and acknowledgement of our initiative to improve access to HIV Counselling and Testing and antiretroviral eligibility, which is in line with the new Western Cape ministerial directive of up-scaling the HCT and ART services in the province."
The mobile unit has undergone a trial run in Germany, is approved according to all relevant German and European standards and will arrive in South Africa by October 2010.
Background information on St. Ingbert
St. Ingbert is a town in the Saarpfalz district, in Saarland, Germany. It is situated approximately 10 km north-east of Saarbrücken, and 10 km south-west of Neunkirchen. Population (2005) 38,659. Sankt Ingbert is an old industrial town, but most of its heavy industries (coal, steel, glass) have closed. Major employers now include software company SAP AG and Festo automation technologies - according to Wikipedia.
For more information on the Fraunhofer Institute, visit www.ibmt.fraunhofer.de
Western Cape Minister for Health