1 December 2012

Tanzania: Technology to Diagnose HIV in Newborn Babies

THE Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with implementing partners on HIV 43 SMS have received printers from Vodacom Foundation Tanzania to boost its programme called the Early Infant diagnosis.

Speaking at the handing over SMS printers at Elizabeth Pediatric Aids Foundation (EGPAF) yesterday in Dar es Salaam, the Head of Vodacom Foundation Yessaya Mwakifulefule said the 43 SMS printers will be distributed to lower level facilities in Lindi, Mtwara, Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Tabora and Shinyanga.

Today is World AIDS Day and currently, one third of HIV-infected children usually die before their first birthday and half will die before the age of two if not put on ARV therapy. HIV/AIDS can be detected within 4 to 6 weeks after birth, thus mothers are urged to bring infants to health facilities for specimen collection and early detection of HIV.

The devices donated by the Vodacom Foundation worth 98m/- are expected to be distributed to lower level facilities within EGPAF supported regions which will ease accessibility of results and reduce turnaround time and early initiation of ARV treatment.

He said parents will be able to receive HIV test results of their newborn babies through SMSes that will be directly sent to dispensaries and health centres once blood samples have been tested.

"Technically, testing infants for HIV has been a challenge thus detection of HIV from a child borne to an HIV positive mother can be done as early as 4 to 6 weeks of age and those who missed this opportunity can still be tested and for older children, those over 18 months confirmatory tests can be done using rapid tests.

However, the introduction of SMS printers will ease the process hence results will be sent directly to the zonal lands to the processed sites once processed within a short time," he said. Mwakifulefule said the use of the SMS printers is an innovative approach to increase accessibility of results from zonal Lab.

The use of SMS will shorten time it takes or a patient or caregiver to receive test results by an average of two weeks. The EGPAF Associate Technical Director Dr Chrispine Kimario said they valued Vodacom's donation, saying it would facilitate reliability in early infant diagnosis of HIV as well as reduce the turnaround time in getting the HIV test results for infants.

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