Engineers Enter Fight Against AIDS in Africa
April 19, 2012
Communications engineers in Africa are installing cell phone technology in printers to wirelessly and immediately relay babies' HIV test results to health clinics. The project has been successful in Mozambique for a year and will be rolled out elsewhere in Africa.
HIV-positive babies who get treatment quickly are much more likely to survive, according to health workers. But Mary Pat Kieffer, with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, said babies in remote villages were dying before doctors could get test results and start treatment.
To help avoid delays, health workers have created networks to pick up blood samples stored on filter paper and deliver them to labs.
The advanced technology needed to check for HIV in newborns is available at four laboratories in Mozambique, said Dr. Ilesh Jani, director of Mozambique's National Institute of Health. But because labs lack the staff to call clinics or send results by cell phone message, results stacked up until they could be sent in batches by courier.
Two technology companies are involved in the improved diagnostic system: Britain's Sequoia Technology Group and Telit Wireless. Tim Clayton of Sequoia said engineers removed the working parts from standard printers and replaced them with cell phone technology. Lab computers then can relay results from multiple tests simultaneously to clinics using GPRS technology, which he said is reliable and cheaper than text messaging.
The Mozambique program cost about $400,000. Jani said a cell company donated all the airtime the project needs and noted that involving the private sector is crucial in impoverished countries.
Setting up the Britain-based system linking lab computers to clinic printers was tricky, according to Clayton. Now that it is running, it can be easily replicated elsewhere, he said. Plans are in place to use the printers in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
04.10.2012; Donna Bryson
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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