Mobile Technology Saves Lives

By Adaku Ejiogu | September 6, 2012

Jon Hrusa/EPA

For many of us, mobile technologies are how we learn, play, and communicate quickly and effectively. But for women living with HIV in remote areas, mobile technologies can be a critical For many of us, mobile technologies help us learn, play, and communicate quickly and effectively.

But for women living with HIV in remote areas, mobile technologies can be a critical lifeline.

For example, in Lesotho in Southern Africa – which is known as the Kingdom in the Sky – the terrain is extremely mountainous, and villages and clinics can be hard to reach.

Relying solely on physical transport to deliver lab results means that mothers often wait several weeks to get HIV tests back for their children.
And when those test results do come, many mothers can’t make it back to the clinic to even receive them. This can mean the difference between life and death for HIV-positive infants, who must begin treatment without delay in order to survive.

The Foundation is helping to change this equation in Lesotho and other countries through mobile technology.

We’re using laptops with 3G technology in Lesotho to help children with HIV get started quickly on lifesaving treatment. Clinic workers can receive lab results electronically, enabling them and teams of village health workers to contact families and ensure they come back to the health center.

There they can discuss the results, receive appropriate counseling, and have their children started on treatment – which is helping to dramatically cut the child mortality rate in Lesotho.

Mobile technologies are also important for preventing infants from being infected with HIV in the first place through mother-to-child transmission.

In Kenya, where more than 60 percent of the population has a mobile phone, medical professionals can communicate directly with pregnant women and their male partners. Messages sent by mobile technology can remind parents of appointments and medications, safe breastfeeding practices, and help them make better health decisions to keep their children HIV-free.

And the best part?

While there are initial costs to provide mobile technology to health workers and clinics, these technologies are cheap to use, costing just pennies to send texts that can truly save lives.

As the Foundation continues to fight to help mothers protect their children and families from HIV and AIDS, we view mobile technologies as an important piece of our strategy.

Adaku Ejiogu is a Senior Technical Officer at the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.