Cambodia will need to spend as much as $720,000 to upgrade its laboratories to make full use of increased funding for antiretroviral AIDS drugs in the coming years, health officials said Monday.
Many Cambodian laboratories lack electricity or adequately trained technicians to ensure consistent test results, officials said on the first day of a three-day workshop in Phnom Penh, attended by delegates from Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and China.
“We can have all the funds for antiretroviral therapy that we need, but if efficient purchasing, inventory control and distribution systems are not in place, these …will not be spent wisely,” said US Ambassador Charles Ray.
Once Cambodia receives final approval for a $46 million grant from the donor Global Fund in the next six months, $22 million of that will go to antiretrovirals and other drugs for AIDS patients, said Mean Chhi Vun, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Infections. The increased funding could help support antiretrovirals for 10,000 participants by the end of 2005, he said. But laboratory upgrades are needed to accommodate the new patients, said Jack Spencer, chief of the US Centers for Disease Control’s global AIDS program in Cambodia. Cambodia plans to upgrade 36 laboratories, which would cost roughly $15,000 to $20,000 per lab, he said. The US budgeted about $1.2 million on HIV/AIDS programs in Cambodia this year, $200,000 of which will help fund laboratories.
But the country lacks additional funds for upgrades and daily operations, Spencer said.