World AIDS Day is in December and every year on this day, people around the globe unite in the fight against HIV, showing their support for the estimated 35 million individuals living with this virus and remembering the 39 million who have died of AIDS-related illnesses.
Last week in Kenya, where the spread of HIV/AIDS continues to be one of the nation’s most pressing health concerns, we held a ceremony for a project I manage through Qualcomm Wireless Reach, that has used 3G wireless technology to improve the delivery of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to HIV patients in Nairobi. The project’s stakeholders gathered to celebrate the successes achieved over the multi-year duration of our project, and mark its transition from being a Wireless Reach-funded project to one that is now sustained locally.
The HIV infection rate in Kenya is 6.3 percent.1 This translates to approximately 2.6 million Kenyans living with HIV/AIDS. Offering free Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) via clinics throughout the country is a key element of the government’s strategy to reduce HIV/AIDS-related morbidity and mortality. ART requires continued treatment with ARV drugs, close monitoring of patient status and adherence, and an uninterrupted supply of critical pharmaceuticals.
Prior to our project, health workers at ART clinics manually tracked their ARV drugs, handwrote the reports that the central medical supply agency requires in order to restock a clinic with the drugs and physically drove to the agency to submit the reports. Reports were oftentimes delayed, and many were incomplete, inaccurate or altogether missing.
Using 3G technology, our Wireless Reach project aimed to reduce the administrative burden on the health care workers, strengthen the pharmaceutical management systems for ART and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the delivery of ARVs to HIV/AIDS patients. We achieved this by equipping ART clinics in and around Nairobi with computer equipment, 3G wireless data connectivity and a newly developed software tool that tracked ART patient pharmaceutical information, helped manage the dispensation of the drugs and automatically generated reports at each health center. The project also trained and supported health workers to use the new system.
The new tool has been extremely helpful in the way ART clinics operate and has enabled health workers to spend more time focusing on patient care. Some of our results include:
- The timely submission of reports increased by 50 percent.
- The average time to compile three monthly ART reports fell from 11.6 hours to 29 minutes.
- The average time spent on delivery of reports to the central medical supply agency was reduced from eight hours to five minutes.
I am enormously grateful to all of the project collaborators who have contributed to this project’s success. This project is a prime example of how 3G technology can reduce health care costs and expand scarce resources to serve a large number of people. I’m proud to share the achievements of our project this week, and to be able to say that our efforts are helping to improve the lives of people living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya.