New technology that diagnoses HIV in infants has injected new hope into the veins of countless Kenyans.
The techno-wizards at Hewlett-Packard have partnered with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to support students from Kenya’s Strathmore Univeristy, who created database applications that make infant early infant diagnosis (EID) HIV test results available online and in real time. Currently, scarce computers and unpaved roads mean it takes up to 4 months for infants to get HIV test results. Sadly, nearly 70 percent of test results do not even reach rural families.
However, thanks to advances in cloud computing technology and HP’s $1 million investment in IT infrastructure development, diagnoses are now available through online sites and short message services (SMS) without delay, allowing life-saving anti-retroviral treatment to begin immediately.
“For my first two babies, I received their HIV test results 18 weeks after the blood sample had been collected, and this was given during the routine postnatal clinic visits. But for my third born, I received an SMS on my phone five days after the sample collection, asking me to collect the results," said Elizabeth Mwende, a resident of Mutomo village in Kitui.
A lag time of 17 weeks often means the difference between life and death for the 120,000 Kenyan infants exposed to HIV each year. Data indicates that children whose HIV medication is prolonged have less than a 50 percent chance surviving until age two.
Five HP data centers in larger Kenyan cities are being constructed to process the HIV results, with the SMS and web technology concurrently being set up in the rural clinics to receive the home facilities’ results. The project is expected to roll out to 50 facilities across Kenya’s rural landscape this year for trial testing before becoming available to the other 850 health centers currently open. Kenya’s Ministry of Health is also collecting real time analysis of the program. A successful collaboration between private sector and government could provide optimism for other nations looking to benefit from such advances.
“Technology and innovation are key to solving many of the most pressing challenges of our world, none of which are more urgent than a disease which takes the lives of 31 children every minute,” said President Clinton. “I’m pleased HP’s technology and expertise will enable the partnership with CHAI to save the lives of more than 100,000 infants in Kenya each year, and in the process, demonstrate how the private sector can and should operate in the developing world.”