Susanne Norris Zanto BS CLS (NCA)
Technical Services Manager, Montana Public Health Laboratory
Issues: Implementation of rapid HIV testing programs that are acceptable to laboratory directors, feasible for health departments and/or community-based organizations (CBOs), and provide high quality client services can be challenging to implement, especially in a rural setting. This presentation addresses lessons learned for implementation of such programs, as well as recommendations for comprehensive systems of quality assurance.
Description: The Montana Public Health Laboratory partnered with the Montana HIVAIDS Program to develop training and provide quality assurance oversight for the publicly funded counseling and testing sites. The Rapid Testing program began with the training of six pilot sites. After a six-month evaluation period, the program is gradually expanding to all sites, including CBOs.
Lessons Learned: The Public Health Laboratory, working closely with the HIV AIDS Program is key to successful implementation. This also leads to greater integrity in lab practices, especially important for social service agencies, whose work usually requires less attention to detail. Early clarity about expectations for data and program quality prevents problems with quality assurance later.
Recommendations: Plan carefully, train well, and begin slowly. Determine a system for data monitoring, including elements prone to human error, such as the time and temperature under which the test is conducted, or the use of controls to ensure test kit functionality. Work closely with those individuals actively providing rapid testing services, to be sure that proposed procedures will be feasible in practice.

Last Update: April 8, 2005