India is home to over two million people living with HIV.
Increasing access to and uptake of HIV testing and counselling services plays a key role in preventing HIV and getting lifesaving care and treatment to those living with HIV. PCI is working with the Indian government to help improve the quality of HIV testing in public sector laboratories throughout the country under the Project for Accelerated Technical Assistance and Integrated Capacity Building for HIV/AIDS (PRATIBHA). Through a grant from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PCI provides technical assistance to the Department of AIDS Control (DAC), State AIDS Control Societies, and public sector reference laboratories to ensure compliance with the highest standards for medical laboratory testing quality that have been set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Laboratories that achieve this compliance receive accreditation from a government authorized assessment agency, which has international acceptability and recognition. The laboratories strengthened through PRATIBHA support nearly 13,000 Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers throughout the country that perform over 20 million HIV tests annually.
Accreditation and Capacity Building
As of March 2014, PRATIBHA has succeeded in helping 11 national and 24 state, reference laboratories receive ISO accreditation, whereas none had been accredited in 2009 at the beginning of the project. In addition, the project has trained staff in 70 out of 130 reference laboratories as ‘certified internal auditors’ to independently conduct internal assessments of their laboratory’s compliance with the ISO standard. This is a major contribution to institutionalizing a quality management system, as dependence on resource intensive external assessments is minimized with the availability of these internal auditors within the system.
PRATIBHA has trained at least one technical staff in all aspects of quality improvement in 91% of the 117 state reference laboratories and over 70% of these laboratories have received on-site technical assistance. PRATIBHA offers a model of laboratory strengthening in resource-limited countries that is based on existing country systems and dependent on donor support for technical assistance only.
Reducing HIV Vulnerability Among Migrants
Besides its work to strengthen the quality of HIV testing throughout the country, PCI is also working under PRATIBHA to prevent HIV among migrants and their spouses in the State of Bihar. Under this component, PCI is providing technical assistance to DAC and the Bihar State AIDS Control Society to formulate a strategy and develop a program to improve awareness and access to HIV testing, prevention, and other HIV-related services among migrants and their spouses