NOVEL MOBILE communications technology developed by researchers in Galway will be used to help prevent the transmission of HIV from pregnant mothers in Africa to their children.
Hewlett Packard (HP) Ireland has announced a new collaboration with South African-based NGO mothers2mothers (m2m), which counsels more than a million women in nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa each year. The new technology developed by a team at HP in Galway will convert the current paper-based patient records system into a digital format that enables easy sharing of information across the m2m network of more than 700 sites in sub-Saharan Africa.
Paul Ellingstad, HP director of Global Social Innovation, explained that m2m employs local mothers living with HIV to mentor HIV-positive pregnant and new mothers in health facilities. They work side by side with doctors and nurses, supporting and educating women about how to take their medicines and care for themselves and their babies.
“There are more than 1.3 million pregnant women living with HIV in Africa. Without any interventions, 40 per cent of those women will have HIV-positive babies. The m2m mentor mothers are given mobile phones or tablet PCs which they can use to download information on training and health in real time and to upload information about the women they are seeing, connecting all of these sites like never before,” he said.
Mother-to-child HIV transmission rates remain high in Africa in part due to the challenge of ensuring mothers adhere to medical treatment.
With the current number of health workers worldwide, most developing
countries will not be able to achieve Millennium Development Goal 6, which
includes universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2015, according to a 2011
World Health Organization (WHO) report which reviewed progress in five
countries. By the end of 2009 only 36 percent of 14.5 million HIV-positive
people in low- and middle-income countries in need of antiretroviral
treatment (ART) received it, in large part because of the lack of healthcare
workers, according to the UN.
New HIV treatment guidelines issued in late 2009 boosted the number deemed
in need of treatment. WHO estimated in 2006 a shortage of 4.3 million health
workers globally – 1.5 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone. The need would
only grow as the population grows and HIV infections increase, said the 2011
WHO report. In analyses of HIV programming over the past decade in Cote
d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Thailand and Zambia, only Thailand — where
the health worker shortage is less severe than in the other countries — had
achieved near universal access to HIV medication (78 percent). HIV
prevalence in the five countries varied from 15.2 percent in Zambia to 1.4
percent in Thailand.
* – Recommendations*
In addition to bolstering community health workers to take on HIV care and
prevention, the report recommended:
1. *Not neglecting HIV prevention programmes
2. **Keeping health workers in remote areas****
3. **Figuring out how many health workers are needed to achieve universal
4. **Improving overall management of human resources