Aids testing goes hi-tech

2012-04-10 18:58

kalahari.com

Johannesburg - Getting Aids test results from labs to remote villages once took weeks in Mozambique, with the information sent by courier along the impoverished country's terrible roads. The delay could mean death.

Now, communications engineers have adapted office printers and cellphone technology to wirelessly and immediately relay test results. Britain's Sequoia Technology Group and Telit Wireless said on Tuesday the printers are being rolled out elsewhere in Africa after initial success in Mozambique, where the project has been running for a year.

Phillip Collins of Telit said in an interview that his company's technology is more often used for monitoring electricity meters than saving lives. It took on the printer project at the Clinton Foundation's request.

Tim Clayton of Sequoia said he has visited Mozambican clinics where printers have been installed, and learned about the push to ensure Aids does not kill children.

"It's pretty significant impact when you see it first hand," Clayton said in an interview.

It's another innovative use of cellphone technology, which Collins called the "single most common means of long-range technology being used today" around the world.

In Africa, cell-phone technology is used to transfer money from customer to vendor, and wildlife researchers have put no-frills cell phones in weatherproof cases on collars around elephants' necks to track the animals' movements.

Mary Pat Kieffer, a Mozambique-based expert with the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric Aids Foundation, said babies in remote villages were dying before doctors could get test results and start treatment. Kieffer was not involved in the printer project, but has seen it at work and said in an interview it has helped "in closing the loop" on a lifesaving circle.

The advanced technology needed to check for HIV, the virus that causes Aids, in newborns is available at four laboratories in Mozambique, said Dr Ilesh Jani, director of Mozambique's National Institute of Health.

Samples stored dry

Blood drawn from babies believed to have been exposed to HIV can be drawn and stored dry on filter paper. Kieffer said health workers have created networks to pick up samples and deliver them to the labs, a first step that itself was once a source of delay.

Kieffer added that since she began working in Africa a decade ago, the number of labs has increased, as has their capacity - a matter of equipment and staff.

"When you get a positive result, it's very urgent, you have to do something quickly," Kieffer said.

HIV-positive babies who are quickly put on treatment are much more likely to survive, health workers say. In the first six months alone that the programme was up an running in Mozambique, 20 000 results were relayed to the printers.

Labs processing thousands of tests 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.

Clayton said the technological fix is fairly simple. Engineers removed the guts from standard printers and replaced them with cellphone technology. A computer at the lab can relay results from multiple tests simultaneously to clinics using GPRS technology. Printers can be left on so results can be streamed. If the power fails, the results are stored until it comes back.

At the clinics, "the only thing you have to do is to tear off the paper from the printer and hand it to the doctor," the National Institute of Health's Jani said.

GPRS is reliable, and cheaper than sending a cellphone text message, Clayton said.

Clayton said the trickiest component was creating a system, set up in Britain, to link lab computers to clinic printers. Now that the system is up and running, it will be easy to replicate elsewhere, Clayton said.

Plans are in place to use the printers in Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Mozambique still struggles with a shortage of health workers and medicine, Jani said. He praised the printer project, but cautioned: "No technology is a magic bullet."

- SAPA
Read more on:    mozambique  |  southern africa  |  hiv aids  |  health
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Music

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The virtual world can be very tempting to escape into but focus on also being present and keeping your feet anchored in reality....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.