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Safer blood collection is a growing concern for Sub-Saharan African nations and other developing countries severely impacted by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Access to HIV treatment in developing countries has significantly increased in recent years, which in turn has expanded the quantity of blood drawing for HIV screening and monitoring tests.
Health care workers who perform those vital tests in Sub-Saharan countries will be better protected thanks to a new initiative by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, and a leading global medical technology company, Becton, Dickinson and Company.
Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, the U.S. Department of State's Special Representative for Global Partnerships, and Gary Cohen, Executive Vice President of Becton, Dickinson and Company signed a memorandum of understanding in Washington D.C. this month to improve blood collection safety in clinics and hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa.
The 3-year initiative – which may be extended up to 2 additional years – is scheduled to begin in October in Kenya and expand to include up to four additional PEPFAR-supported countries. It will ultimately support in-service training for as many as 10,000 healthcare workers. When fully implemented, the monitoring component of the initiative aims to track as many as 2 million blood draws within each participating country.
The program will help hospital and clinical personnel improve their blood-drawing procedures and specimen handling, processes that are critical to the proper management of HIV/AIDS patients. The initiative will also work to control exposure to HIV among health workers by providing post-exposure prophylaxis. In addition, the program will help prevent needle stick injuries by establishing or enhancing needle stick injury preventive surveillance. These monitoring measures can identify practices that pose risks to health workers and patients.
Reflecting PEPFAR's focus on empowering developing nations in the battle against HIV/AIDS, Ministries of Health in participating countries will take the lead in developing individualized policies, guidelines and standard operating procedures for blood drawing and specimen handling. As part of their collaboration, PEPFAR and Becton, Dickinson and Company will work on the ground with Ministries of Health, national reference laboratories and various implementing partners.
Working with its African nation partners, international organizations, and the private sector, the United States is committed to helping improve health care for the people of Sub-Saharan Africa.