Zambart, contracted the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) Virology Laboratory, under Ministry of Health to conduct external Quality Assurance (QA) in HIV proficiency testing for all the 459 HIV counselors under the on-going HPTN 071/PopART study.
The UTH’s virology department is the only HIV rapid testing certifying institution under Ministry of Health and was contracted to give an independent assessment on HIV proficiency testing. Of the 459 PopART counselors, 444 were tested out of which 94 percent scored a 100 percent mark — the required pass mark, while 6 percent failed the test.
“The main objective of this activity was to have an independent and credible institution cross examine the counsellors in HIV proficiency testing, assessing if HIV rapid testing is correctly done and results are accurately interpreted,” said Comfort Phiri Musonda, the PopART study HTC QA/QC manager.
This was the first time Community HIV Care Providers (CHiPs) and other counsellors under the study were tested for HIV proficiency externally. The activity was conducted in third quarter of 2015.
Ms Musonda reported that, “97 percent of all HIV testing counselors in PopART study were tested, and overall they performed well especially that this was the first time to perform this type of test.”
However, annual HIV proficiency testing is conducted internally using liquid plasma. Ms Musonda said, “This exercise helps to assess the ability of an HIV testing counsellor to perform the test correctly as per outlines or SOP and interpret results accurately.”
Counselors that failed the proficiency testing QA will not be permitted to perform any client testing until they are re-trained and pass the second external QA. Ms Musonda explained that all the counselors that failed the external QA HIV Proficiency testing would have to undergo additional training.
In the re-training, individual attention will be paid to, “Determine HIV rapid test outline; Unigold HIV rapid test outline; use of national HIV testing algorithm; interpreting HIV test results; and finger prick HIV rapid testing procedure, after which they will be re-assessed in external QA HIV proficiency,” she said.
Ms Musonda, said she would continue to discuss HIV testing procedures with the PopART District Intervention Coordinators and CHiP supervisors during her quarterly site visits, while the DIC and CHiP supervisors will include HIV rapid testing procedure to their agenda items during monthly intervention meetings.