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Early Infant Diagnosis Unit

Pathologist-in-charge: Professor Gayle Sherman

The Early Infant Diagnosis (EID) unit aims to assist in delivery of quality HIV diagnostic services for infants and children in collaboration with the National and Provincial DoH and other partners by training, provision of technical assistance, research, monitoring and advocacy. Sister Tsakani Mhlongo performs training on early infant diagnosis for doctors, nurses, counsellors and facility managers nationally. The training spans specimen collection to interpretation of HIV PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and rapid test results in children with a view to ensuring that all identified HIV-infected infants access care. Training is carried out across South Africa with a total of 1198 health care workers trained during 2013. Technical assistance is provided for policy development on infant diagnosis nationally e.g. to the National Department of Health (NDoH) and the HIV Clinicians Society, and internationally to the World Health Organization (WHO) and via the Laboratory Working Group of the Inter-Agency Task Team. The unit provides clinical support for problematic cases nationally to ensure that children on lifelong highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) are definitely HIV-infected. Monitoring of the national EID programme is achieved in collaboration with the NHLS corporate data warehouse (CDW). Two PCR reports are distributed monthly to managers from national down to facility level detailing PCR tests performed against targets of exposed infants per province/district to measure EID coverage, proxies for early vertical transmission and numbers of PCR positive infants per facility requiring tracking into care. The monitoring function is constantly being improved to assist in addressing challenges experienced in the field.