PAHO’s Timely Support for Scaling Up Effective Testing of COVID-19 through the PAHO Strategic Fund

30 Apr 2020
health workers in PPE using general diagnostic tests

Washington, DC, 27 April 2020 (PAHO)— The PAHO Strategic Fund has supported Member States in increasing access to COVID-19 diagnostic kits through pooled procurement, securing over 500,000 RT-PCR tests (noted as the gold standard for diagnosing the disease). Another 1.5 million tests will be delivered over the next month, and an additional 8 million tests will be provided over the subsequent four months – covering at least 12 countries in the region.

As cases of the novel coronavirus continue to spread across the Americas region, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F. Etienne, urged Member States to scale up testing of the disease. "We are fighting an invisible enemy, not only because the virus cannot be seen with the naked eye, but because we do not have a complete picture of how COVID-19 is affecting our societies," said Etienne in a virtual press conference on 21 April, 2020.

As part of the effort to strengthen Member States’ response to the virus, the PAHO Strategic Fund has provided technical cooperation to scale up access to critical diagnostic kits for COVID-19. With the support of the PAHO COVID-19 Incidence Management Team, quality sources of products have been identified and made available to Member States through the Strategic Fund mechanism. This initiative complements the effective and timely efforts by PAHO early in the pandemic to train and equip public health surveillance labs with in-house primers, probes, and controls. 

Given the current levels of community transmission and ongoing difficulties posed by strained international supply chains, the scale-up of RT-PCR tests is a much-needed step to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within countries.    

The PAHO Strategic Fund, established in 2000 to improve access to essential medicines and strategic public health supplies throughout the Region, has facilitated the procurement of millions of lifesaving treatments for a variety of diseases – including but not limited to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes, and hepatitis C. Currently, 34 countries in the Americas participate in the Strategic Fund mechanism.