Labs Need Boost to Produce Anti-AIDS Drugs

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.


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