NEW YORK/GENEVA, 26 MAY 2023—The international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomes today’s adoption of a resolution at the United Nations 76th Annual World Health Assembly to strengthen countries’ diagnostic testing capacity. With almost half of the global population having little or no access to disease testing, this resolution is an important step towards improving global access to diagnostic tools, MSF said. Increasing access to testing for a range of diseases is vital as it is necessary to provide people with the best possible medical treatment.
The resolution was proposed by Indonesia and governments in Africa. Now, all countries must immediately take the necessary steps to implement the resolution, including ensuring that key diagnostic tools and tests – such as those for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS – are affordable and available throughout the country. One way to do this is by supporting the local production of diagnostic tools and tests in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Dr. Salha Issoufou, Director of Operations for MSF West and Central Africa, said today:
“Timely access to the right testing tools is one of the most critical parts of any medical intervention to slow an outbreak and save lives. It is encouraging to see access to testing being discussed on a global scale.
“We are often faced with an absence or limited availability of tests, as there are often simply no tests on the market adapted to the remote emergencies we work in. So we end up sending samples to distant laboratories – if is anyone – which can mean waiting weeks or months before you get results. Delays like this can mean delayed responses to outbreaks and unnecessary loss of life. This is unacceptable.
“The thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way; The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that rapid, easy-to-use diagnostic tests can be abundantly available, just as they were for wealthy countries at the front of the queue.
“We urge all governments to ensure that everyone has access to life-saving tests by rapidly adopting World Health Organization guidelines into their national policies, developing national essential diagnostic lists and ensuring nationwide access to essential tests for all diseases relevant to the local context – including neglected diseases – and beyond pandemics alone.”
Stijn Deborggraeve, diagnostic advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign, said today:
“We welcome this important decision to strengthen diagnostic capacity, but it must not remain just ink on paper.
“To make it a reality for everyone, everywhere, we urge all governments to implement the resolution and improve access to diagnostic tests by ensuring that quality-assured tests are affordable and by supporting the local production of diagnostic tools, especially in LMICs.
“Every day we see test shortages in the countries where we work, so it’s clear that relying on a few multinational diagnostic companies to meet local health needs is not working. We need more successful collaborations between local test manufacturers and governments, such as Brazil’s Bio-Manguinhos, which produces testing tools at non-profit prices to meet local health needs.If we hope to improve access to testing for diseases that mainly affect people in LMICs, local production in these countries is key .”