With public health professionals at the forefront of efforts to control the HIV pandemic, they are now taking on a new role in the urgent quest to respond to COVID-19.
The ICAP-supported Laboratory Systems Strengthening Community of Practice (LabCoP) through the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) met virtually in November at their 4th annual meeting to consider ways in which they can maximize the resources of member countries and apply lessons learned from the HIV pandemic to combat COVID-19 in that region.
“At its annual meetings, LabCoP would discuss key goals and best practices that can strengthen their collective efforts to achieve HIV epidemic control,” said Getachew Kassa, MSc, MPH, DrBA, senior technical advisor for ICAP. “This year, in addition to discussing best practices for treating HIV, we also explored best practices to manage COVID-19 that are specific to the African region.”
ASLM is an independent, not-for-profit organization that works with stakeholders at the local, national, and international levels to improve local access to world-class diagnostic services. ICAP, along with Project ECHO at the University of New Mexico, provides technical support to ASLM while the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides funding. As a subsidiary of ASLM, LabCoP focuses on supporting country teams to scale up high-quality HIV viral load monitoring and strengthening their laboratory system with the goal of contributing to improved patient outcomes.
This year, one key objective of the meeting aimed to discuss larger laboratory system issues beyond HIV, including how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need to integrate testing across disease areas and discuss new interventions to strengthen the laboratory network such as introducing the M & E sub-community of practice and the laboratory network management course.
“It is an ideal forum for public health professionals from within the region to discuss their successes and challenges,” said Kassa. “Each country learns from the other and collectively they develop best practices that can in turn empower the region to provide better services to their respective populations.”
This year Cameroon, Nigeria and Eswatini joined LabCoP, further strengthening the pool of human resources and knowledge within the organization.
With the experience and expertise of ICAP behind it, LabCoP is proving to be an effective resource for tapping into the health care network of professionals who can support each other to improve clinical and public health outcomes in Africa.