The African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) has partnered with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to address existing barriers towards advancing the diagnostic agenda in Africa. This they have done through the launch of the Africa Collaborative Initiative to Advance Diagnostics (AFCAD).
This strategic partnership was announced during a press conference held on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, to increase access to quality diagnostics towards the achievement of universal health coverage in Africa.
Speaking at the conference, Dr. Yenew Kebede, the Head of Laboratory Division, Africa CDC, stated that Universal Health Coverage is a priority for African countries to attain inclusive and sustainable growth, noting that many diseases remain undiagnosed due to poor diagnostic capacity in most African countries.
He said: “The limited access to essential tests and slow introduction of innovative technologies result in insufficient disease case finding and hampers access to, and monitoring of, treatment. Barriers to diagnostics prevent the African continent from becoming free of epidemic-prone diseases and compromise the achievement of the health agenda of the African Union”.
Other partners on this initiative include: Institut de Recherche, de Surveillance Epidémiologique et de Formation (IRESSEF), World Health Organization Africa Regional Office (WHO-AFRO), Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) and UNITAID.
Mr Nqobile Ndlovu, the acting CEO, ASLM said: “This partnership is timely for this period, especially with this year’s conference and its relation to the theme: ‘Controlling the next pandemic: The role of The Laboratory’. ASLM is happy to partner with Africa CDC to launch this initiative in promotion of the diagnostic agenda in the African region through better coordinated and synergized efforts that align with the priorities of Ministries of Health”.
Over the last decade, significant investments have been made by national governments, NGOs, partners and donors to address the technical, health system and financial roots of diagnostic gaps in Africa.
However, there is still a lot more to be done, explained Prof. Alash’le Abimiku, Chairperson, ASLM Board of Directors. “This is why this collaborative effort is so important. When we had the Ebola crisis in Africa, one major challenge laboratory experts had was the time spent in getting the samples tested. Sometimes, it took up to four weeks just for blood samples to get tested because they had to be taken to Germany. But with this new initiative, regulations will be accelerated to facilitate timely and wider access to essential diagnostics”, she said.
The role of AFCAD will be to support efforts that will enable all Member States to achieve equitable access of up to 80 percent coverage to the essential package of healthcare, taking advantage of technological innovations delivered through optimized integrated laboratory networks. This is expected to support achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals as well as improved adherence to International Health Regulations (2015).
AFCAD will also support African health systems through early detection and prevention of antimicrobial resistance, reducing the barriers to early detection, prevention and management of non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancers, as well as preventing disease outbreaks and reducing their human, economic and social cost by instituting early warning systems and ensuring timely detection and diagnosis of epidemic-prone diseases.
AFCAD aims to address diagnostic gaps holistically. The initiative will share information and compare various investments made across the disease areas. The identification of complementarities, overlaps and gaps will provide clarity about whether end-to-end solutions exist and are being implemented.