Providing health care in sub-Saharan Africa is a complex problem. Recent reports call for more resources to assist in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases that affect this population, but policy makers, clinicians, and the public frequently fail to understand that diagnosis is essential to the prevention and treatment of disease. Access to reliable diagnostic testing is severely limited in this region, and misdiagnosis commonly occurs. Understandably, allocation of resources to diagnostic laboratory testing has not been a priority for resource-limited health care systems, but unreliable and inaccurate laboratory diagnostic testing leads to unnecessary expenditures in a region already plagued by resource shortages, promotes the perception that laboratory testing is unhelpful, and compromises patient care. We explore the barriers to implementing consistent testing within this region and illustrate the need for a more comprehensive approach to the diagnosis of infectious diseases, with an emphasis on making laboratory testing a higher priority.
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