In Kazakhstan, over 28,000 people live with HIV. More than 90 percent are of working age with their ages varying between 15 and 49 years. Ensuring quality treatment for people living with HIV is a priority issue for Kazakhstan’s national HIV strategy. HIV’s effective treatment is crucial for ensuring a quality healthy lifestyle for people affected and for minimizing the risk of transmission of infection to other people.
According to experts, the HIV epidemic in Kazakhstan today is at a concentrated stage, i.e. observed mainly among certain groups of the population. Therefore, halting its spread is quite possible. The availability of quality laboratories is one of the prerequisites for this. Quality laboratory diagnostics is essential for prescribing the correct treatment – it helps detect HIV infections on time and helps ensure the treatment is effective. A misdiagnosis can lead to psychological trauma, or to the spread of HIV to other people.
To improve the quality of laboratory research in Kazakhstan, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kazakhstan has purchased and installed modern automated equipment for conducting PCR tests for HIV infection in 15 AIDS centres in all regions of the country. New equipment – ExiStation, manufactured by the South Korean company, Bioneer Corporation – has been acquired as part of a project to support the Kazakh Research Centre of Dermatology and Infectious Diseases of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan through a grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The acquired equipment is fully automated, which helps to avoid errors and to meet the growing needs of the population for HIV testing.
“The advantage of the automated equipment is that it does not require manual handling,” said Galiya Tazhibaeva, head of the diagnostic laboratory, Kazakh Research Centre of Dermatology and Infectious Diseases. “The absence of the ‘human factor’ minimizes the risk of errors and guarantees the accuracy of the analysis. Furthermore, due to automatic isolation of HIV RNA from blood plasma, the lab workers do not have any contact with the infected biomaterial, which ensures their safety during testing. The automated equipment also increases efficiency and reduces workload on personnel,” she added.
The staff members of the regional AIDS centres have already attended workshops, organized by specialists invited from South Korea, to learn how to use the new PCR machines. The workshops took place from 25 October 2021 to 21 November 2021 in all 15 AIDS centres.
Alongside the equipment, UNDP has also purchased and distributed an annual supply of HIV testing kits. Within the same project, to last two years, the plan is to purchase and deliver contraceptives to AIDS centres for further distribution among the most-at-risk groups. A total of 5 million condoms and 3 million lubricants will be purchased and distributed in the regions of Kazakhstan.
According to Tatiana Davletgalieva, representative of the Global Fund, UNDP has proved to be a reliable partner in procurement-related issues. Under the grant, it is planned to purchase more equipment and kits for HIV prevention and treatment in 2022.
The goods and equipment supplied are expected to help at-risk people living with HIV in Kazakhstan to receive better treatment, prevention, and diagnosis of the disease. Laboratory monitoring is especially important for the treatment of pregnant women to reduce the risks of HIV transmission to newborns.
World AIDS Day is marked on 1 December each year. The fight against this disease is a United Nations goal and is included in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is impossible to eradicate HIV and AIDS without eliminating economic and social inequalities. UNDP, jointly with its national partners and international donors, is contributing to eliminating all types of inequalities and makes efforts to ensure access to effective treatment for key population groups and people living with HIV.