ASLM-Botswana Becomes First Local Branch of ASLM at Symposium in Gaborone


Mr. Ebi Bile (CDC-Botswana Lab Advisor) and Dr. Katy Yao (representing ILB, GAP) attending the Symposium in Gaborone, Botswana. Image reproduced with the kind permission of Dr. Katy Yao.

One of ASLM’s major commitments in strengthening laboratory systems across sub-Saharan Africa is to support the World Health Organisation African Regional Office (WHO/ AFRO) Laboratory Accreditation System, a joint venture by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) to help laboratories in Africa meet the highest standards of reliability and gain international accreditation. Accreditation is a profound step forward for a laboratory, ensuring that professionals have the best training and proficiency with the latest diagnostics, and attracting donors and staff. On 25-26 June, ASLM celebrated a major triumph for this programme at a symposium in Gaborone, Botswana, where four public health medical laboratories received their international accreditation. To support and build on this substantial progress, ASLM also announced the launch of its first national branch, ASLMBotswana, alongside the newly-founded Botswana Institute for Clinical Laboratory Professionals (BICLP).

The first of the four public laboratories in Botswana to gain accreditation was Bamalete Lutheran Hospital Laboratory, a small institution in the town of Ramotswa. This achievement shows that the WHO/AFRO programme is able to inspire significant improvements even in smaller laboratories outside the main urban centres1. Three more public laboratories and several private institutions in Botswana have now achieved accreditation, and another five are enrolled in the system.

“High quality laboratory services are not just the gateway to treatment and management of priority diseases, but are essential for public health surveillance and policy decision making”

The two-day symposium in the capital was hosted by the Botswana Ministry of Health, and opened with keynote speeches from its Assistant Minister of Health Mr. Gaotlhaetse Matlhabaphiri, and US Ambassador Michelle Gavin. In comments before the symposium, Gavin acknowledged the new emphasis on reliable laboratory services, saying, “I am pleased that the US government and the Ministry of Health recognise that high quality laboratory services are not just the gateway to treatment and management of priority diseases, but are essential for public health surveillance and policy decision making.” The US government provided financial and technical support for the meeting through PEPFAR and the CDC.

The symposium, which included a number of seminars, presentations and panel discussions with ASLM members, focused on many of ASLM’s highest priorities, including national and international information sharing; laboratory best practices; communication between clinicians and laboratory staff; and collaboration with international health organisations, as well as the importance of accreditation and strategies for achieving it. Ralph Timperi, an ASLM Board member and a Senior Advisor of Laboratory Practice & Management at the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), also introduced ASLM’s background and history.

Other presenters included BICLP, Botswana Health Professions Council (BHPC), Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS), APHL, American Society for Clinical Pathologists (ASCP), American Society for Microbiology (ASM), and Southern African Development Community Accreditation Service (SADCAS).

ASLM-Botswana, the first ASLM branch to operate on a local level, will set the mold for future branches that can guide laboratory network development, help draft national laboratory policies and guidelines, and provide local support in the accreditation process, while building strong relationships and an intimate understanding of the region’s unique needs and challenges.

By: Aaron Krol (Editorial Team); Editor: Jessica Fried, MPH (Editorial Team); Contributors: Ebi Bile (CDC-Botswana) and Katy Yao, PhD (CDC-Atlanta)

1The first public laboratory in Botswana to receive international accreditation by SANAS. (2011). In CDC. Retrieved July 30, 2012, from: