By Agnes Kyotalengerire
People living with HIV/AIDS in Ibanda district no longer have to travel to Mbarara and Sheema districts to get services, after Ruhoko health centre IV acquired a fully-equipped laboratory.
The equipment, including a CD4 count machine, all worth sh200m, will help HIV/AIDS patients undergo various tests and treatment.
The renovation of the laboratory and procurement of the equipment was funded by PEPFAR/United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through Star South West Project.
Speaking during the launch of the laboratory on Tuesday, John Mark Winfield, the deputy USAID mission director, said the equipment would facilitate the smooth operation of the laboratory to improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS in the community.
“I urge the medical staff to ensure proper use of the equipment to improve people’s lives,” he said.
Other equipment delivered included a haematology analyser and a clinical chemistry machine, with all their accessories.
The laboratory will serve over 2,400 people living with HIV/AIDS in Ibanda and the neighbouring areas.
According to the 2010 Uganda Bureau of Statistics data, Ibanda, with a population of 242,800 people, has an HIV prevalence rate of 8%, which is much higher than the national figure of 7.3%.
Dr. Edward Bitarakwate, the country director of Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation, said the laboratory is a big milestone to Ruhoko health centre IV and Ibanda.
“The health centre serves a population of about 150,000 people in Ibanda South. The hub is expected to serve as a referral point for all chemistry and haematology tests from lower health facilities in the district,” he said.
Bitarakwate said people with other ailments would also benefit because they will be able to carry out cholesterol and renal tests using the humanalyser.
He urged people living with HIV to continue with their treatment and urged those who did not know their status to seek the free services.
The health centre’s clinical officer, Adrian Tusiime, said the equipment would ease the monitoring of the CD4 count cells of HIV-infected people in the area.
“We have been sending blood samples for CD4 count to Kabwohe Clinical Research Centre in Sheema district, about 100km away. Sometimes they would limit the number of blood samples, yet we have many patients,” said Tusiime.
He said with a functional laboratory, the health centre would be able to test between 70 and 100 CD4 samples per day, as well as 20 haematology and chemistry samples per hour.
Assistant district health officer Louis Kaboine said the equipment would reduce the cost of carrying out various tests in the long run.