Flow cytometry as the spearhead for delivering sustainable and versatile laboratory services to HIV-burdened health care systems of the developing world: A Caribbean model
HIV is targeting the developing nations of the world, threatening their economic development, overwhelming public health systems, and depleting human capital. The Caribbean is no exception, with the second highest incidence of HIV/AIDS outside Sub-Saharan Africa, sharing similar mixed fortunes from a postcolonial heritage, limited resources, and an HIV population dispersed in small population centers. Here we share the experience of Barbados, an island state of 280,000 people, in mounting a holistic and sustainable program against HIV/AIDS. At the forefront of this response has been the growth in clinical flow cytometry used for CD4 monitoring, which has prompted a welcome expansion in diagnostic capacity even beyond HIV/AIDS. A pan-Caribbean extension to Barbados' program has been the founding of the Caribbean Cytometry & Analytical Society (CCAS), which acts as a regional forum to accelerate technology transfer and develop the human resources needed to mount an effective response against HIV/AIDS. The 4th CCAS workshop in 2007 produced a consensus statement on the desirable characteristics for a "diagnostic dream machine": a simple-to-use, rugged flow cytometer capable of carrying out multiple diagnostic functions at the point of patient care in rural or island settings of the developing world, including CD4 count, blood count, and opportunistic infections, without the need for a supply cold-chain or dependable power source. It is our ambitious vision that the spread of flow cytometry, primarily to monitor CD4 in HIV/AIDS, can act as a Trojan horse to deliver better general and specialized diagnostic services to the developing world. © 2008 Clinical Cytometry Society.