FC Barcelona funds new laboratory in Swaziland
MBABANE, 27 July 2011 - The opening of a new modern laboratory to test blood samples for children exposed to HIV infection in Swaziland has been hailed as a major milestone in the treatment of HIV-infected children. The laboratory caters for nearly 100% of HIV testing of blood samples collected from infants in the country and meets quality international standards.
The national reference laboratory, which is situated at the Mbabane Government Hospital, Swaziland’s main referral hospital, is equipped with DNA PCRs, high technology machines which make it possible for the Ministry of Health to test blood samples of infants locally. Before, these samples were sent to South African laboratories. Not only was this costly to the government, it also prolonged the waiting period for clients. The equipment was purchased through funding from FC Barcelona. Early infant diagnosis is an important initiative of the Ministry of Health and several organisations working in Swaziland which is intended to prevent HIV-related deaths by providing early care and treatment to children who are exposed to the virus.
The new early infant diagnosis equipment significantly reduces the waiting period for results from eighteen to three days. It also eliminates the high cost of sending samples to South Africa. The equipment is fully operated and managed by a team of Swazi laboratory personnel, who received training through support from FC Barcelona.
Minister of Health Benedict Xaba is excited at the equipment and praised FC Barcelona for the donation at a formal handover of the equipment. “The equipment will come in handy in lifting the burden of government’s coffers in sending blood samples to South Africa,” says Xaba. Xaba says his ministry would like a framed replica shirt of the team to be placed inside the laboratory, “so that future generations and the children whose lives would have been saved by this equipment would recognise the kind work done by the team,” said the minister at the handover, before chanting: “Phambili nge Barca phambili! Phambili nga Messi phambili! Phambili nga Iniesta phambili" (which means: forward Barca, forward! forward Messi, forward, forward Iniesta, forward)” while waving his Barca replica shirt.
Dr Nida Hailu, the Chief Executive Officer of Baylor Clinic believes this machine will save the lives of many Swazi children. “Before, our clients would wait a long time for the results to come back from South Africa. By the time the results are back, a child would have been three months old and treatment would have been delayed.” This created a huge backlog, which saw many clients falling through the cracks because of the long wait, says Dr Hailu. “Now, results are back in no time, which enables us to admit those infants who are infected into our ART treatment programme sooner,” he says.
UNICEF Representative Dr Jama Gulaid hailed FC Barcelona for the support which the club provides to children in Swaziland. This assistance is part of the global FC Barcelona/UNICEF partnership for children signed in 2006, he said. Since inception, this partnership yielded considerable benefits for children in Swaziland, the first country to receive a significant portion of the Euros 1.5 million funding which FC Barcelona donates annually to UNICEF. Apart from HIV, Swaziland received funding from FC Barcelona forsports equipment in 200 schools and clean water for 25 schools in drought-prone areas.
The FC Barcelona and UNICEF global partnership is making a difference in the lives of children in Swaziland, a country affected by the worst HIV epidemic in the world and severe financial crisis.