Who Are We?


The National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) was established in 2001 by an Act of Parliament, amalgamating the former South African Institute for Medical Research (SAIMR), National Institute for Virology and National Centre for Occupational Health as well as university and provincial pathology laboratories.

The NHLS is mandated to:

  • provide cost-effective and efficient health laboratory services to all public sector healthcare providers;
  • support and conduct health research; and
  • provide training for health science education.

The NHLS is the largest diagnostic pathology service in South Africa, with laboratories in all nine provinces served by 6,700 members of staff, and covering 80% of the country’s population.

The NHLS plays a major role in:

  • public health in South Africa through epidemiology, surveillance and outbreak response activities;
  • the national antiretroviral roll-out programme through CD4+ viral load studies and HIV treatment monitoring;
  • tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment monitoring;
  • the screening for cervical cancer; and
  • the support of occupational health services.

The NHLS’ specialised divisions:

  • the National Institute for Communicable Diseases is one of the major global role players in infectious disease intelligence;
  • the National Institute for Occupational Health supports the development and provision of occupational health services in South Africa;
  • the National Cancer Registry plays a major role in providing epidemiological information for cancer surveillance, maintaining and developing national awareness of this growing disease in the South African population; and
  • the Antivenom Unit within the South African Vaccine Producers, a wholly owned subsidiary of the NHLS, is the only producer in southern Africa of snake and spider bites and scorpion stings.