Recent Activities - 2015

February 2015: Review of Systems for HIV Testing in Azerbaijan

The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (GFATM) contracted NRL to review and make recommendations regarding:


  • The National HIV/AIDS Laboratory system in Azerbaijan

  • The HIV testing algorithm

  • The quality of HIV laboratory performance

  • Quality control and assurance

  • Establishing an equipment maintenance system

  • Documenting SOPs for both HIV reference and regional HIV diagnostic labs

  • Developing a strategy for the HIV diagnostic lab of the Regional AIDS Centre (RAC) to be      certified as reference laboratory


NRL’s Director, Sue Best undertook this review between February 16 and 27, 2015.


Azerbaijan manages its HIV testing separately i.e. it is undertaken in facilities dedicated to HIV testing and care throughout the country. There are 11 regions in Azerbaijan outside Baku, each with its own HIV testing facility. The two that Sue visited were well-equipped, modern and paid attention to the environmental conditions required for serological testing. The RAC in Baku is responsible for quality and supervision of HIV testing nationally. More than 490,000 HIV tests were conducted in 2013.


The HIV testing algorithm is uniform throughout the country. Every facility uses the same tests and virtually the same equipment, including state-of-the-art random access instruments and antigen / antibody immunoassays. The staff are committed and very well trained.


Part of the purpose of the review was to recommend a pathway towards accreditation for RAC. In the first instance, NRL will recommend the establishment of systems for documentation of RAC’s activities; simple maintenance of laboratory equipment; and consistent implementation and documentation of staff training. As another gap was the lack of participation in external quality assessment schemes (EQAS), NRL will recommend both immediate enrolment in EQAS, and training of RAC to provide EQAS for other laboratories nationally. The latter would relieve Azerbaijan of reliance on other countries to provide EQAS, and lead to cost-effective and sustainable programs for the country as a whole.


Sue is grateful to staff at the Ministry of Health Project Implementation Unit for their assistance with translation between English and Azerbaijani language, as well as the kind and warm hospitality shown throughout the visit.

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NRL is designated a WHO Collaborating Centre for Diagnostics and Laboratory Support for HIV and AIDS and Other Blood-borne Infections