Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner

Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner, has expressed pride in what the Government of Barbados has been able to achieve in relation to HIV prevention and control.

She did so last weekend while speaking at the 2nd Joint Meeting of the Caribbean HIV/AIDS Regional Training (CHART) Network, Caribbean Cytometry and Analytical Society (CCAS) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the 7th CCAS HIV/AIDS workshop, at the Accra Beach Hotel.

Senator Garner pointed out that Government was constantly seeking new and improved strategies to mitigate the impact of HIV on the populace.?? To this end, she cited the work of the Ladymede Reference Unit Laboratory in Barbados as being significantly improved in its testing and quality management system.??

"This cumulated in its accreditation in October 2009 by the College of American Pathologists," Ms. Sandiford Garner explained, adding that the unit was expected to play a key role in molecular testing, quality assurance programming and training.

"The Ladymeade Reference Unit laboratory routinely also performs CD4 and Viral Load Testing and is expanding its range of services to include Early Infant Diagnosis, HIV drug resistance testing and Molecular diagnosis for Tuberculosis, and possibly molecular testing for other sexually transmitted infections," the Minister continued.

Senator Sandiford-Garner also said that the improvements at the Ladymeade Reference Unit could make that organisation a potential avenue for Barbados to provide further laboratory support to the entire Caribbean region, since it currently provides access to laboratory services for OECS countries.

The Parliamentary Secretary, however, admitted that there were some areas of weakness that her administration had identified that needed to be addressed.?? In light of

this, the senator indicated a number of meetings were held between the Ministry of Health and some of its stakeholders to identify solutions to these problems.

"The present year indicates the need to assess universal access progress and signifies the midpoint towards attaining the 2015 Millennium Development Goals.?? Consequently, Barbados participated in the country-level universal access reviews which UNAIDS have launched globally," she explained.

The Minister added that coming out of those meetings was an umbrella framework which would standardise HIV testing services in Barbados and introduce initiatives that would increase the number of persons being tested for HIV.

"This policy on testing for HIV in Barbados was formulated through a collaborative partnership between the Committee and the Ministry of Health…. This expansion of HIV testing in the island is an essential strategy, because it offers a systematic solution to the challenges confronting HIV Testing services in Barbados," she opined.

The conference is expected to run until the end of this week, under the theme "Cost Effective Management and Quality Laboratory Monitoring of Individuals with HIV and Co-Infection with TB". Participants have been drawn from throughout the region and will be focusing on ways to reinforce the fundamentals of immunology and virology related to HIV.

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