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AIHA’s Biomedical Engineering Project in Uganda Conducts First GeneXpert Training in East Africa

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WASHINGTON, DC, July 14, 2017The American International Health Alliance (AIHA) this week concluded Phase I trainings on GeneXpert troubleshooting and maintenance for a group of 24 biomedical engineering and lab technicians in Uganda.

Working in partnership with the Ministry of Health’s Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL) and Caroga Diagnostics in Uganda and Kenya, AIHA conducted two rounds of trainings between June 26 and July 8 as part of an in-service biomedical engineering program launched in 2015 with support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Uganda.

This GeneXpert training – the first of its kind in East Africa – represents an important step forward in Uganda’s efforts to build the capacity it needs to ensure vital biomedical equipment remains operational in medical laboratories and health facilities across the country. GeneXpert machines provide a platform for the WHO-recommended test for initial diagnosis of people suspected of having multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), as well as for viral load testing for all people living with HIV in whom TB is presumed.

AIHA trained 20 biomedical engineers and four laboratory technicians in the first phase of the two-phased program. A key focus of the training is to arm participants with the knowledge and skills they need to work in collaboration with site-level service technicians to conduct preventive maintenance and troubleshooting.

“This training will result in reduced equipment downtime and maintenance costs, increased patient satisfaction, improved quality of results, and hence a reduction of the burden of the disease,” explained CPHL National Laboratory Logistics Coordinator Wilson Nyegenye.

“The Ministry of Health and Central Public Health Laboratories are behind this milestone as we work in partnership with AIHA to continue building the capacity of biomedical engineers through this specialized training program. The Ministry appreciates AIHA for facilitating and managing this training for our biomedical engineers,” Mr. Nyegenye continued.

“We are proud for being the first organization to provide this type of training in the region,” Abdul Mutaka, AIHA’s Uganda Program Coordinator, said, expressing his commitment to supporting the Ministry’s efforts to further strengthen local capacity in biomedical engineering and technology.

In close collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s CPHL and Health Infrastructure Division (HID), AIHA is taking a step-wise approach to build capacity of biomedical engineers and equipment technicians across the country, with a particular focus on laboratory equipment critical to the HIV clinical cascade.

Starting with non-automated equipment, the project is addressing all levels of lab equipment as we build the capacity of these biomedical engineers and equipment technicians in this specialized field.

This equipment often requires costly service contracts, but there are a limited number of service contractors in the country. As a result, biomedical equipment such as GeneXpert are frequently inoperable – many times due to very minor problems. Through this program, AIHA and our partners are strengthening this cadre at government facilities with the goal of decreasing equipment downtime and maintenance costs, and increasing timely, accurate test results. Through a partnership approach both within the public and private sectors, AIHA is working to address these bottlenecks as a way to ensure equipment functionality and the timely provision of diagnostic services.

This project is implemented through AIHA’s HIV/AIDS Twinning Center Program, which is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. AIHA manages similar biomedical engineering projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia – each designed to help these countries meet the demands of today’s technology-driven healthcare systems, particularly in the context of providing high quality HIV/AIDS-related diagnostic, treatment, and care services.

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