The Niger Delta region of Nigeria is rich in oil but poor in infrastructure due to its history of strife. Before the Clinton Health Access Initiative set out to make HIV/AIDS care accessible in the region, only a handful of hospitals were providing HIV services to the tens of thousands requiring it. With funding from the National Dutch Postcode Lottery, CHAI has been working to increase access to HIV/AIDS services for children through early infant diagnosis (EID) programs which could potentially avert up to 50 percent of deaths. CHAI’s work has resulted in a 350 percent increase in pediatric testing and an 80 percent return of patients who were previously not returning for treatment. Without these efforts, Devine Udosen, an HIV-positive infant, could have easily fallen through the cracks and gone undiagnosed, untreated, and unknown. One major obstacle for EID in this region is the long lag between infant testing and delivery of results – days in which an immune deficient child like Devine could suffer from fatal infections or malnutrition. But because of CHAI’s introduction of SMS technologies, which enable test results to be sent to labs and even patients via SMS “text” messaging, EID test turnaround times have been substantially reduced from 63 to 42 days – allowing Devine to begin lifesaving treatment three weeks earlier than previously possible. As a result of this work, 70 percent more children like Devine are now on treatment in the region.
July 9, 2012