Bull World Health Organ vol.90 no.5 Genebra Mai. 2012
Note for the Media WHO/Bulletin May 2012
Mobile phones transforming HIV testing in Africa
The time it takes to communicate a HIV test result to a patient's health facility can be dramatically reduced by using mobile phone text messaging, according to research in a special e-health theme issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization (WHO), published this month in print and online.
Scientists carrying out research in Zambia found that the turnaround times for delivering a diagnosis via SMS were almost twice as fast compared to traditional postal methods. The study found that average time for result notification to a health facility fell from 44.2 days to 26.7 days.
"We believe that this research signals how the processes behind testing of HIV and other illnesses can be transformed and improved through mobile phone technology, ensuring that healthcare facilities and patients are provided with their results far more quickly," said Phil Seidenberg of Boston University, one of the authors of the research which was conducted in collaboration with the Zambia Centre for Applied Health Research and Development, and the Zambian Ministry of Health.
The results and study have been welcomed by WHO. E-health, where digital technology is used to support health systems, and m-health, where this technology is used by devices such as mobile phones and tablet computers, are seen as key to improving healthcare in years to come.
"As more people use mobile phone technology in Africa, more opportunities arise to harness e-health and m-health by using electronic and mobile phone technology, to support the expansion of earlier antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV, and to retain people on ART, particularly mothers and children," said Reuben Granich, a medical officer from WHO's Department of HIV/AIDS.
UNICEF in Zambia and the researchers developed the study to address concerns that the slow transmission of test results led to critical delays in children accessing treatment. The technology company, Dimagi, and UNICEF built the SMS system in consultation with the research team.
The Bulletin of the World Health Organization is one of the world's leading public health journals. It is the flagship periodical of WHO, with a special focus on developing countries. Articles are peer-reviewed and are independent of WHO guidelines. Abstracts are now available in the six official languages of the United Nations.
Also in this month's issue:
The complete contents of the Bulletin, since 1948, is available free to all readers worldwide through PubMed Central, available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/tocrender.fcgi?journal=522&action=archive
For further information please contact:
Dr Reuben Granich
Dr Phil Seidenberg