South Africa: Cellphones Join Battle Against HIV/AIDS
October 1, 2004
The Hannan Crusaid treatment center, which has a caseload of 525 HIV patients in Cape Town's Guguletu township, is on the verge of becoming a paperless operation, thanks to an innovative application of cell phone technology. Cape-based Cell-Life has developed software and data management systems that enable Hannan's caseworkers to monitor AIDS patients and detect problems before they become life threatening.
The center's 40 counselors have been trained to use cell phones equipped with a menu that allows them to capture data about patients' symptoms and pill taking as well as factors that could compromise their health, such as a shortage of food or lack of funds to pay for transportation to the clinic. "With Cell-Life we can pick up patients who are having a hard time taking their pills, before they go into virological failure," said Dr. Catherine Orrell, the center's manager. The information is instantly relayed over Vodacom's network to a central database, which can then be accessed by clinic staff over a secure connection.
Cell-Life was developed by engineering students at University of Cape Town and Cape Tecknikon, with funding from Vodacom and the National Research Foundation. Currently, the software can only be used on Vodacom's cellular network, but talks are underway with MTN and Cell-C. The database is password-protected and protects patient identities and confidentiality by storing only a patient's unique number.
The software is also monitoring nearly 500 patients in KwaZulu-Natal province, said Cell-Life Project Leader Ulrike Rivett, and could branch out for use in other provinces.
09.29.04; Tamar Kahn
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.