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Burnet Institute international health specialist, Dr Jessica Markby has just returned from Papua New Guinea where she supports the National Department of Health to roll out the National Point-of-Care (POC) CD4 Testing Program.
The program is a collaboration between the Central Public Health Laboratories (CPHL) in PNG, Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and The Global Fund.
Over the past year, together with a team from CPHL and CHAI, Dr Markby has led four, three-day Pima point-of-care CD4 training for 64 health care workers and future trainers who provide HIV care and treatment at 31 government, non-government organisations (NGOs) and catholic clinics across PNG.
“Currently, there is only a small number of towns (14) where labs are set up to process blood for CD4 testing and often it is fraught with machine breakdowns associated with poor power quality,” she said.
Dr Markby explained that around 80 per cent of PNG’s population live in rural areas without access to centralised health centres.
“It is very difficult to transport blood around the country to urban laboratories due to limited infrastructure and logistics. Long result turn around time is common leading to a high number of patients lost to follow up,” she said.
“The problem remains in countries like PNG that centralised-laboratory testing only serves a small proportion of the population that reside in urban and peri-urban areas.”
Dr Markby said that the point-of-care testing model aims to provide greater access to testing, treatment and monitoring for HIV-positive patients out to the district level.
The work of this collaborative CPHL team was recently featured in PNG’s national newspaper The Post Courier, which highlighted that: “With Pima testing, patients can have their CD4 result in 20 minutes. The Pima provides access to CD4 testing to the rural population without the need for patients to travel to provincial towns.”