Global HIV drug resistance laboratory network

Call for applications


In the last 25 years the HIV/AIDS epidemic has taken an enormous toll, infecting approximately 65 million individuals around the world. According to WHO/UNAIDS, 4.3 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2006 alone, an increase of about 400 000 since 2004. About 95% of people with HIV/AIDS live in developing countries, and nearly two–thirds of them are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Although it is universally recognized that combined antiretroviral therapy has remarkably reduced HIV-related mortality, one of the major concerns with the rapid scaling up of ART is the emergence and transmission of HIV drug resistance (HIVDR) strains at the population level. This could lead to failure of basic ART programs as well as strategies to prevent HIV transmission through pre-exposure prophylaxis or topical microbicides. Because HIV mutates easily, it can acquire mutations that allow the virus to resist anti-HIV drugs. These HIV mutations occur randomly and there is no way to prevent them from occurring but resistant strains become predominant especially when individuals are not highly adherent to their treatments. Wherever HIV therapy is available drug resistance will eventually occur.

While the current reported low levels of HIVDR in resource limited countries is reassuring, WHO recommends that each country be vigilant in measuring drug resistance transmission and the emergence of drug resistance within their treatment programs to increase program support and make changes in the recommended regimens as necessary.

The World Health Organization in partnership with HIVResNet, a global advisory network of HIVDR experts, has developed a minimum-resource package to countries for the prevention and assessment of HIVDR at a population level.

A key element of the WHO strategy to prevent and assess HIVDR globally is the establishment of a Global HIVDR Laboratory Network with the goal to provide quality-assured, comparable data for surveillance of transmitted HIVDR and population-based monitoring of HIVDR emerging during treatment.

Regional/subregional laboratories and national laboratories will be appointed by an ongoing process.

The proposed Global HIVDR Laboratory Network will ensure the availability of competent laboratory services worldwide for evaluating HIVDR situation at national, regional and global level. Its structure will be based on three responsibility levels, namely: specialized HIVDR laboratories, regional and sub-regional HIVDR laboratories. The corresponding responsibilities will be assumed voluntarily by institutions applying for and included in the network.

The global network will follow standardized testing and reporting procedures. According to their level in the Network, laboratories are expected to provide expertise for accurate laboratory testing of HIVDR, contribute to the development of standard laboratory procedures, provide training for staff of network laboratories worldwide. A comprehensive laboratory accreditation process will assess quality assurance and performance indicators.

Applications to participate in the development of the HIVDR laboratory network are called upon from laboratories which meet the expected quality criteria outlined. Application is open to laboratory facilities worldwide, that fulfill the quality criteria for network membership for national or regional HIVDR laboratories.

Criteria for selection

Application is open to laboratories facilities worldwide, that fulfill the quality criteria for network membership as National or Regional HIVDR Laboratories.

Useful links for potential applicants