Zambia: Government's SMS System for HIV Test Results
March 29, 2010
Zambia's Ministry of Health is piloting a project that sends newborn HIV test results back to community health centers via text messaging, shortening to three to five days a process that used to take up to 10 weeks and getting infected babies onto antiretroviral (ARV) treatment earlier.
Victor Munkonka, director of public health in the ministry, noted that the delay in administering ARVs in children who are less than 18 months old was contributing to high infant death rates in Zambia. He is optimistic that the program, once implemented nationally, will help reduce the country's infant mortality rate by more than 50 percent.
Felistus Chipako of the Media Network on Child Rights and Development said the government's introduction of SMS as a way of addressing pediatric HIV is an encouraging development. Zambia's child mortality is among sub-Saharan Africa's highest, with 119 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008, she said.
"The system also calls for intensive counseling for mothers on how to handle the whole thing when given the results," Chipako added.
Inter Press Service
03.24.2010; Violet Nakamba Mengo