Ending Pandemics With One Click

Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseasesThis is part of our year-long series “Millennium Development Goals Tech Roadmap”

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

Target 6A: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS

Target 6B: Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it

Target 6C: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases

For the first time, the world is starting to see a decline in HIV infections.  In fact, from 2000 to 2012 the HIV infections rate dropped 33 percent.  A record number of people living with HIV are now accessing and receiving proper treatment. Nonetheless, 2.3 million people are still infected annually, with more than half of the number in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The rate of malaria deaths globally has also dropped by 26 percent from 2000 to 2010.  More than half of the 1.1 million lives saved were in the 10 countries with the highest malaria rates.  Better access to mosquito insecticide nets is a major contributor.

Better treatment for tuberculosis has also contributed to saving 20 million lives from 1991 to 2010.  However, better access to treatment in developing countries continues to be a problem.

Support for better access to antiretrovirals and bed nets from both governments and civil society organizations has helped greatly in suppressing these health pandemics.  There have also been movements around reducing stigma around these diseases and reaching out to specific groups like new mothers, youth and sexual minorities (LGBT).

Technology has also been a major player in reversing health trends.  Over the years, we have covered great tech innovations around HIV/AIDS advocacy, including the story of South African Thembi Ngubane, who was diagnosed with HIV when she was 16 years old, and three years later decided to document her struggles living with the disease through podcasting. Ngubane’s blunt talks range from how she contracted HIV to her initial resistance to taking antiretrovirals due to stigma in her community.

Smartphones and SMS texting now play a direct role in community health.  In Zambia new mothers can now test their new babies for HIV and receive test results by text within two weeks, in addition to post-natal follow-up and care.  Before the technology was implemented, it took over two months to send the baby’s blood cultures from the community health clinic to the nearest testing center and send the results back.

Also, patients most of the time have to walk a long distance to go to the clinic.  With SMS, test results are sent directly to the mother and is given further instructions on what to do next.  To maintain confidentiality, the system is securely managed with a strong verification process. Only trained staff with pin codes can access it using their personal mobiles to retrieve results.

In Thailand community health workers use smartphones to monitor and record information about malaria patients.  An electronic malaria information system (e-MIS) uploaded on the health workers’ mobiles shows them where to find patients, the status of their treatment and other trends.

In South Africa, tuberculoisis patients receive text reminders to take medication at certain times.  The country has one of the highest rates of TB in the world.  TB patients must take a heavy regimen of pills and other medication on a daily basis.  Texting has helped to reduce the strain on an already burdensome health care system in South Africa.

Another great tech innovation is TeachAIDS, a nonprofit started by Stanford’s Dr Piya Sorcar that provides free medically-accurate and culturally-appropriate videos that educates the public about HIV/AIDS.  Used in over 70 countries, the videos can be viewed on multiple platforms, including DVD, streamed on YouTube or downloaded off of the TeachAIDS Products page.

Check out one of their videos here:

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