Balancing Access with Accuracy for Infant HIV Diagnostics in Tanzania (B)


The Global Health Initiative (GHI) is a tripartite collaboration among Northwestern University, non-profit donors, and commercial diagnostics companies. GHI attempts to bridge the gap between the market for sophisticated medical diagnostics equipment in wealthy nations and the need for point-of-care diagnostics in resource limited settings. In 2006 GHI narrowed its focus to HIV diagnostics for underserved nations. The case examines the accuracy–access tradeoff related to the roll-out of infant HIV diagnostics in Tanzania. Tanzania has a prevalent HIV/AIDS problem, particularly in children. As of 2007, Tanzania had an estimated 140,000 children infected with HIV. Existing lab-based diagnostic equipment was either inaccurate for use in infants or required highly skilled health workers. Tanzania's limited infrastructure also forced healthcare providers to choose between providing advanced care to a minority of the population and offering minimal care to the majority with poor access. A Kellogg MBA student research team performed more than thirty in-country interviews to collect data on stakeholder perceptions of three infant test concepts: the strip test, the squeeze test, and the filter paper test. Across the three tests, access decreased as accuracy increased—rural labs could not find or afford health workers skilled enough to conduct the test. In general, interviewees closely affiliated with the government preferred accuracy over access. In contrast, private health facilities had to follow fewer regulations and preferred access over accuracy. The case focuses on the decisions facing Kara Palamountain, the executive director of GHI, in her roll-out recommendations for infant HIV tests in Tanzania. It examines key factors of working in a developing country, including the need to operate in the absence of sufficient market research, balance the competing agendas of different stakeholders, and mitigate external risks such as major international funding.

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