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Motorbikes Speed Up HIV Test Results in Malawi

April 21, 2014

This article was reported by Impatient Optimists.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Impatient Optimists reported that because Malawi has no nationally organized method of delivering laboratory samples, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) plans to use motorcycle couriers Riders for Health to transport laboratory samples. Nicole Buono, Malawi's EGPAF director, explained that clinicians require continuing tests to monitor and treat properly HIV-positive individuals receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). A reliable laboratory sample transport system is very important to this process.

The Ministry of Health has approved Riders for Health. The organization selects, trains, and manages motorcycle couriers to collect and return samples. Currently, the model is working in Rumphi, Mzimba South, and other northern Malawi districts, and has begun in the Mchinji District of central Malawi.

According to Clinician Eric Mittochi, the Mchinji coordinator for ART and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission, it formerly took two to three months to get test results, but the motorcycle couriers make it possible to receive results in a week. He described the program as timely, efficient, and an enhancement to treatment.

Malawi's three central laboratories perform DNA testing to meet the targets set forth in the government's national plan to eliminate prenatal HIV transmission. The national plan proposes a new laboratory for Zomba Central Hospital, located in the region where Malawi's highest HIV burden occurs. These laboratories are very important for early infant HIV diagnosis. EGPAF and Riders for Health delivery system will simplify health workers' ability to follow up with mothers and infants with quick turnaround of HIV test results.

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