18 April 2014

Malawi: Motorcycles Join Fight Against HIV in Malawi - Report

A leading U.S. medical charity plans to partner with Riders for Health to speed up transportation of their HIV laboratory samples and deliver test results faster, a media report said.

By expediting the exchange and delivery of HIV-related medical information, the collaboration between the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation's (EGPAF) and Riders for Health, an organization that supplies health workers with motorcycles to improve access to health care across sub-Saharan Africa, would also improve early diagnosis in infants.

"Since HIV services require multiple lab diagnostic tests to initiate, monitor and effectively treat patients on antiretroviral treatment, these services also need a reliable sample transport system," Nicole Buono, EGPAF country director in Malawi, said in a report posted on the Gates Foundation website.

Malawi has no national network to transport laboratory samples; local transportation may be arranged to respond to urgent needs like collecting blood for transfusions, the report said.

The lack of a coordinated system has prompted the country's health ministry to work with Riders for Health in various districts to ensure speedier delivery of medical information.

Other health organizations, such as Partners in Health, have teamed up with Riders for Health in Malawi and the motorcycle group said it is scaling up its operations in the country.

"Previously, a client would take two to three months to get the results but with Riders for Health, it takes a week," one health worker said. "It is timely and efficient and enhances quality treatment because some clinical decisions are based on outcome of the results."

Malawi is one of seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the world's hardest-hit region in the global AIDS epidemic, that have cut the number of new HIV infections in children by 50 percent since 2009, according to the U.N.

Tens of thousands of babies across the region are now being born free of HIV, a 2013 report by the United Nations AIDS Programme said, highlighting that much of the reduction in new HIV cases in children was thanks to more use of AIDS drug treatment for HIV-positive pregnant women.

According to Malawi's National AIDS Commission (NAC), HIV prevalence has declined since the first reported case in 1985. Despite significant progress, experts said some 50,000 new HIV cases are registered every year, and that more needs to be done to eradicate the virus.

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