The Botswana–Harvard HIV Reference Laboratory (BHHRL) is a state-of-the-art research facility located on the grounds of Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone. The building, a three-floor, 25,000-square-foot facility, houses both laboratory and office space for the Botswana Harvard Partnership (BHP).
The Laboratory serves as the central facility for processing and testing of clinical specimens, for monitoring changes in the regional HIV epidemic, and for conducting BHP research studies. The Lab is a crucial part of Botswana’s HIV surveillance activities, especially as they pertain to HIV prevalence and incidence rates.
One floor of the Lab is dedicated to high volume routine testing of clinical specimens. The assays are fully automated and include HIV RNA PCR viral load, CD4/CD8 counts by flow cytometry, serological ELISA assays, as well as routine chemistry and hematology. HIV diagnostic Western blot and other STIs (HSV-2 ELISA, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea PCR) are also conducted.
The remaining two floors combine laboratory research, programme offices, the Data Management Center, and core operational facilities. Laboratory space is dedicated for sophisticated molecular research of HIV, as well as a BL3 facility for virus isolation and culture. Research capacity in place includes PBMC isolation, freezing and storage, virus isolation and co-culture, DNA isolation, amplification, cloning and sequencing, qualitative and quantitative PCR, detuned ELISA, high- and low-resolution HLA typing, and functional immunologic assays (ELISPOT and intracellular cytokine staining).
In addition to its research role, the Laboratory serves as a training facility, helping to build the professional infrastructure of Botswana by training the nation’s researchers and laboratory technicians.