After more than 30 years, the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisation declared the AIDS epidemic was over in July. But that doesn’t mean the job is over yet; the global medical research focus has shifted to battling Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Vodafone Foundation, together with the Lesotho Ministry of Health, is supporting a mobile-based HIV program to address this issue in remote Sub-Saharan Africa.

HIV in Australia

HIV diagnoses rates have stabilised in Australia – at last count, there were 1,081 new diagnoses in 2014. For Cipri Martinez, President of the National Association of People Living with HIV Australia, this means we must take different steps to end new HIV infections, particularly where past cases show people are being diagnosed too late.

“The only way we can reduce the number of HIV infections to zero by 2020 in our region is by focusing intense advocacy and resources on those people most at risk of new HIV infections, especially young gay men and people who inject drugs,” he said.

What’s the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV and AIDS are often mistaken as being one and the same.HIV attacks the immune system, which is the body’s defence against anything from a common cold to more serious diseases. Thanks to medical research, there are now more improved treatments for those with HIV. But if it’s not treated immediately, HIV can develop into AIDS, making people more vulnerable to infections and illnesses.

Fighting a good fight

The fight against HIV, however, is much more challenging in other parts of the world, particularly in developing nations such as Lesotho in Sub-Saharan Africa where one in four people are HIV positive. As many as 5,000 children under the age of 14 are estimated to be undiagnosed, living with HIV, and are at immediate risk if they’re not treated.  A further 7,000 children diagnosed with HIV require ongoing specialist treatment. Many of those who are infected live in extreme poverty in remote rural communities that are difficult to access.

Addressing this issue, Vodafone Foundation, together with the Lesotho Ministry of Health, is supporting a mobile-based HIV program designed to help those who are living in these remote areas. The program sees Vodafone’s M-Pesa mobile money service combined with mobile health clinics and a smartphone app designed for healthcare professions which can track HIV patients living in remote areas. M-Pesa is Vodafone’s mobile money service widely used across 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Roving mobile clinics

The travelling clinics (that run in partnership with Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative, Riders for Health, and NGOs Kick 4 Life and PSI) are then able to test people onsite for HIV. For people who test HIV positive, they are registered with the M-Pesa mobile money service to receive M-Pesa funds they can use to pay for transportation to a treatment centre.

Their details are recorded – via mobile – on a central database so that their future treatment and care can be planned and recorded. These details can then be recalled in real-time by healthcare professionals using a smartphone app produced by the Vodafone Foundation and Vodacom Lesotho.

Mobile healthcare for HIV patients

Vodafone Foundation is supporting a mobile-based HIV program designed to help those who are living in these remote areas in Lesotho.

The program is specifically tailored to pregnant women, mothers, and young children, who are among the most vulnerable groups in Lesotho, as they are less likely able to make their way to their nearest HIV clinic – often hours away.

Since rolling out mobile clinics in the Maseru and Leribe districts of Lesotho, the country’s government has committed to integrate the program as part of the country’s primary healthcare strategy by mid-2017. This is to be followed by a full roll-out across the other Lesotho districts, potentially transforming the lives of vulnerable people living in some of the world’s most remote villages.

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Aimee Chanthadavong

Content Producer

Aimee Chanthadavong,
Content Producer

As Content Producer of RedWire, Aimee is a passionate storyteller about people, technology, and anything else that requires her to use a bit of journalistic detective work.