Managing laboratory waste from HIV-related molecular testing: Lessons learned from African countries

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Waste generated from HIV viral load (VL) testing contains potentially hazardous guanidinium thiocyanate (GTC). GTC is toxic to humans and can pollute waters and harm aquatic life if not disposed of appropriately. We assessed gaps in waste management (WM) policies, regulations and practices through a self-assessment scorecard and an online survey questionnaire among 11 African countries participating in a laboratory systems strengthening community of practice and receiving technical assistance to scale-up VL testing. We identified solutions from national stakeholders, technical agencies, and manufacturers to inform interventions for improving WM. Nine of 11 countries did not have WM policies/guidelines in place. Most Countries reported disposing liquid chemical waste into the sewer. Nine countries prioritised the development of policies as a multi-sectoral approach in the short term. High-temperature incineration through cement factory kilns was identified as an effective, inexpensive and high-capacity disposal option for GTC-containing waste in the short term. A long-term consideration with funding from governments and donors were infrastructural investments for conventional high-temperature incineration where cement factory kilns are unavailable/inaccessible. Adequate WM of GTC-containing waste through available funding could provide the necessary impetus to establish comprehensive WM systems addressing all types of healthcare waste through a multisectoral approach.


Odhiambo, C. O., Mataka, A., Kassa, G., & Ondoa, P. Managing laboratory waste from HIV-related molecular testing: lessons learned from African countries. Journal of Hazardous Materials Letters. 2021; 100030. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hazl.2021.100030