By the Blouin News Science & Health staff

Combining mobile tech and healthcare in Lesotho

by in Medicine.

Outside Maseru English Medium Primary School. (Source: K. Kendall/flickr)

Outside Maseru English Medium Primary School. (Source: K. Kendall/flickr)

As Blouin News explored last week, the potential for integration of mobile technology and healthcare-based initiatives is in the global spotlight because of the Zika virus. However, companies and governments are also looking at mobile tech to aid in ongoing efforts to stem HIV, notably in Lesotho.

The Mobilising HIV Identification and Treatment (MHIT) program led by ViiV Healthcare and Vodafone, among other groups, aims to double the number of children in Lesotho in care and treatment for HIV within three years. Mobile tech is a huge part of this program; the Vodafone foundation, Vodacom Lethoso Foundation, Elton John AIDS Foundation, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have contributed human resources and funding to help build out the mobile capabilities of communities so that more children can receive treatment, and basic services such as transport and information can operate.

Last week, ViiV Healthcare wrote in its announcement how mobile would play a role in the group’s program:

In Lesotho, the Vodafone Foundation is building on this success by deploying mobile clinics to rural areas to reach children – including adolescents – and mothers in hard to reach communities, providing primary care services (including antenatal checks and immunisation) and searching for individuals living with HIV to provide them with better access to treatment, using mobile money-based transport vouchers so they can reach clinics or hospitals.

Those mobile money techniques are a huge element of the success of mobile health projects because in Lesotho (as in many other countries in Africa, hence the success of mobile payments) banks are not easily accessible. Most of the country’s villages are in highlands only reachable by horseback. So connectivity is key for communicating transport needs and transferring payments. Mobile tech will also help the groups heading up the project manage and coordinate services and communication to implement the program. With one of the world’s highest rates of HIV/AIDS (23%) the country could become one of the poster children for how integrating mobile tech and healthcare projects can address crippling pandemics.