By Arti Bhanot

Knowledge Management & Learning Specialist at PCI India

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PCI India’s pioneering work on quality improvement in HIV laboratory services

HIV testing labs reach out to about 20 million clients across India. PCI, since 2009, implements the country’s only HIV testing laboratory strengthening project (PRATIBHA) with funding from U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) and in collaboration with the national government. Technical leadership provided by CDC and PCI is focused on enabling 130 National and State Reference Laboratories (NRLs and SRLs) across the country to achieve the highest quality standards for laboratories – accreditation as per ISO: 15189. These labs form a quality assurance and mentoring network for the Integrated Counseling and Testing Centers where clients go for HIV testing.

Clients benefit from improved quality of HIV testing services due to improved:

  • Accuracy in testing-reduction in false positives and false negatives

  • Efficiency in testing -reduced Turn Around Time in reporting test results

  • Effectiveness in reporting and response- appropriate counseling, care and treatment by health care services providers

PCI has intervened with change agents at the policy, NRL-SRL network and laboratory levels to provide concerted technical assistance and capacity building inputs leading to sustained quality improvement measures in HIV testing labs. CDC and PCI are bringing evidence in planning and implementation of quality improvement interventions for HIV testing laboratories through nation-wide lab assessments based on WHO/CDC quality parameters.

Advisory support has been provided for the next phase of HIV/ AIDS program, starting later this year. PCI has advocated for improved infrastructure, availability of skilled lab personnel and overall committed funding for quality improvement of labs.

In the current phase of the national program accreditation is a voluntary process- PCI technical team has used a range of interventions to motivate lab staff for quality improvement, mentor on technical issues in developing documents and testing procedures and encourage cross-learning among labs through joint workshops. Most recently, 64 technical staff and quality managers were trained on key elements of quality improvement and their application in lab settings.

When the project exits in 2014, 40 of the 130 NRLs and SRLs are likely to be accredited.