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Uganda Implements Rules to Regulate DNA Testing Practices

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The Ministry of Health (MOH) in Uganda has issued fresh guidelines for paternity testing. These guidelines make it mandatory for laboratories all over the country to seek accreditation to collect DNA samples. Additionally, the labs are required to have a counselor or clinical psychologist on their staff.

These guidelines were unveiled during the National Laboratory Sector Performance Review Meeting held on Thursday. They also state that technical personnel working in these labs must receive specific training in DNA sample management. Furthermore, the names and qualifications of the staff members must be submitted to the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, emphasized the importance of these guidelines in addressing recent concerns arising from a surge in demand for paternity testing. Some clinics had begun advertising themselves as providers of DNA tests, which has now been prohibited. Any clinic found promoting such services will have its license revoked.

Previously, individuals could undergo DNA tests secretly, but the new guidelines require users to sign consent forms provided by the Ministry of Health. These forms will capture essential information about the individuals involved.

In July, Members of Parliament urged the government to regulate DNA testing due to a significant increase in demand, as reported by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Dr. Suzan Nabadda Ndidde, the Executive Director of the Uganda National Health Laboratory Services, added that laboratories conducting DNA testing should seek international accreditation within five years of operation. The aim is to ensure that the country produces internationally recognized test results.

Aside from DNA testing, efforts are underway to have more laboratories internationally accredited. Currently, the number of accredited laboratories has risen to seventy. Uganda aims to reduce the need to send samples abroad for specialized testing and become more self-reliant.

Regarding the transfer of DNA samples abroad, the Ministry now mandates that the facility collecting the sample must have a valid material transfer agreement approved by the Director General of Health Services.