System Uses Cell Phones To Bolster HIV/AIDS Care in Rwanda
The New York Times on Monday examined a system that uses cell phones to bolster HIV/AIDS care and the system's impact in Rwanda. The system, which was created by Voxiva, allows health workers to send reports using a cell phone directly from the field to a central database, according to the Times. The system was launched in Rwanda two years ago to track people living with HIV/AIDS. It now connects 75% of the country's 340 clinics and covers 32,000 people, the Times reports. According to the Times, each time an HIV-positive person is entered into the system, the information is sent to a central database in Kigali, Rwanda. Weekly reports also are created to cover data, including clinics' stocks of antiretroviral drugs, and monthly reports cover the number of HIV-positive people with access to antiretrovirals, according to the Times. In addition, clinics receive messages with information about laboratory tests and drug recall alerts sent by the Ministry of Health. "By identifying individual patients in a central database, we can now follow up on individual patients, even when they change clinics," Innocent Nyaruhirira, Rwandan HIV/AIDS minister, said, adding, "The wonderful thing with Rwanda is that mobile phones are everywhere." Howard Zucker, World Health Organization assistant director-general of health technology and pharmaceuticals, said using cell phones makes sense across the developing world. He added that they also can "be used by patients to authenticate code numbers on individual bottles" to fight the growing problem of counterfeit pharmaceuticals (Crampton, New York Times, 3/5). Voxiva is part of a public-private partnership that last month announced the launch of a new $10 million campaign that will use cell phones to bolster HIV/AIDS care and treatment in 10 African countries. The partnership includes the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, Motorola, the GSMA Development Fund, Accenture Development Partnership and MTN. Under the initiative, called "Phones-for-Health," health workers in the field can access software loaded on a standard Motorola cell phone to enter HIV/AIDS and health information into a central database in real time. Information will be transmitted using a standard GPRS mobile connection, and when not available, an SMS channel will be used. The information sent to the central database will then be analyzed by the system and made available to health officials on the Internet. According to GSMA, 60% of Africans live in areas with mobile phone coverage, and the figure is expected to increase to 85% by 2010 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.