In a first, on the occasion of World AIDS Day on Saturday, the HIV Testing and Disease Monitoring laboratory in the Department of Immunopathology, PGIMER has been accorded Accreditation by the National Accreditation Board for Calibration and Testing Laboratories (NABL).
NABL is a central agency which has laid down certain guidelines (known as NABL 15189:2007) based on international standards of laboratory set-up and functioning and grants accreditation (certification) following a very stringent criteria of assessment made by independent NABL certified assessors.
The PGI HIV laboratory is not only the first in Chandigarh but also in the whole of north India beyond New Delhi in a government setup to get NABL accreditation.
The laboratory boasts of giving HIV diagnostic and disease monitoring (CD4 count and viral load) services as per international standards and the report generated from this laboratory will be acceptable in any country around the world following such standards. Since the services are fully sponsored by NACO (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt of India), the HIV testing and CD4 count are offered free of cost in this laboratory to the patients inflicted with this disease. Dr Sunil Arora, Professor and In charge of this laboratory insists that anybody desiring to know his/her HIV status should avail these services in ICTC, PGI, Chandigarh.
The NABL assessment involves the functioning of the index laboratory related to all aspects including competency and training of authorized signatory and technical staff, functional status and calibration of all instruments, up-to-date documentation of all activities including maintenance of a quality manual, bio-safety manual, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and management review committee meetings. This kind of systematic work culture is not normally seen in government hospital/institute laboratories in India.
The laboratory in PGI which got this distinction, started as a HIV screening center under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) HIV sero-surveillance program way back in 1987.
But the laboratory scope increased manifold over the years since the inception of the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) in 1992 taking over the responsibility of making HIV control and management policies in India, when the laboratory was termed as ‘Voluntary Confidential Counseling and Testing center (VCTC) which was later re-designated as the Integrated Counseling and Testing center (ICTC) with the start of ante-natal screening program.
The laboratory is also NACO designated State Reference Laboratory (SRL) as it is looking after the training and quality assurance of