Faulty HIV tests in use in public hospitals

2012-07-07 21:26

Faulty HIV test kits, blacklisted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), are still being used in public hospitals.

The kits are at the centre of a controversy around a R22.5 million tender that was awarded for the same product that was recalled in South Africa after it was found to be faulty by the WHO.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi was gobsmacked when he learned this week the tender was awarded to SD Bioline, an HIV testing kit that was banned in January because it could give incorrect outcomes.

The Korean-made product is being imported by Pantech, a Durban-based company that has been supplying these kits to government for the past eight years.

After the new tender was awarded in March this year, the company again started supplying the kits to public hospitals. The tender allows them to supply 4.5 million test kits over the next two years.

The WHO explicitly stated in its advisory that governments should “cancel any pending procurement and no new procurements be initiated until further notice”.

An official from the WHO confirmed to City Press that the product is still blacklisted.

Treasury said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) approved the kits and therefore it okayed the tender.

According to Pantech spokesperson Vuyo Mkhize the company did not want to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” just because the WHO found some of the test kits to be faulty.

“There was no reason to now throw away a product that has served the company well for many years. We have a historical comfort with the product, it has never let us down before.”

Said Mkhize: “There was only 66 000 faulty tests out of millions, so it is not necessary to withdraw the product.”

But Mkhize couldn’t say why then the company recalled its products in February, after the WHO advisory came out.

On its website this week Pantech was still selling SD Bioline at a “discounted price”, but by yesterday the “special” was removed.

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