Clinical microbiology laboratories are on the front lines of the fight against infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and related opportunistic infections, and in places like Ethiopia, the need for high-quality systems and training is imperative. The American Society for Microbiology (ASM), in a key partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-Ethiopia and the Government of Ethiopia, has focused on delivering customized training and mentoring programs to a variety of regional and health research laboratories in Ethiopia since 2011. The goal of this partnership is to control and prevent the spread of HIV-related opportunistic infections in a country that currently reports over 1.2 million cases of the disease, and assist in the diagnosis of other common pathogens.
The structured approach to ASM’s microbiology capacity building begins with a series of workshops on basic diagnostic microbiology procedures and transitions to on-site, longer-term, mentoring visits to ensure proper implementation of technical skills and quality systems essentials. This includes the improvement of quality control, quality assurance, laboratory safety, competency testing, and standard operating procedures using the ASM Microbiology Mentoring Package. Pre-established requirements must be met for the graduation of the laboratory and mentee.
Prior to participating in a 21-week, one-on-one mentoring program, the Adama Regional Reference Laboratory and the Bahir-Dar regional Laboratory lacked key clinical processes and procedures. However, after their graduation from the ASM Mentoring Program in 2014 and 2015 respectively, both laboratories are now able to perform all core functions and activities required by a microbiology reference laboratory, and the mentees who participated in the mentoring program are now more confident in their work and have the capability of teaching and instructing others in best practices and coaching on key skills and knowledge. These improvements in efficiency, technical skills, and implementation have assisted in the creation of local sustainability measures and further promote country ownership.
The ASM Mentors who were in charge of the Adama and Bahir Dar certifications noted that the mentoring process with the staff from the Adama and Bahir Dar regional laboratories was productive and satisfying. While the greatest challenge faced was related to staff turnover, ultimately, this facilitated more individuals being trained in best practices. In turn, the mentees stated that the mentoring experience was highly beneficial and helped them focus on improving quality assurance and competency building.
Since their graduation, the Adama Regional Reference Laboratory and the Bahir-Dar Regional Public Health Laboratory have conducted several on-site visits to neighboring hospitals, set up bacteriology laboratories, and trained technologists using ASM’s training approach and materials. The ASM Microbiology Capacity Building Program has demonstrated notable results in improving quality-assured diagnostic services of clinical microbiology laboratories across Ethiopia. As local mentees mentor/train and share training materials with other laboratories it creates local sustainability and promotes country ownership, while improving the overall functioning and quality of Ethiopia’s entire health system.
For this and more HIV/AIDS resources from ASM please visit www.asm.org/HIV.
Development of this publication was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number 5U2GGH001116-02 from the Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for Global Health, Division of Global HIV/AIDS. The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC.