The Vodafone Foundation is using a pioneering mobile-based HIV programme in Lesotho, a country with an estimated 23% of the population is HIV positive, many of whom live in extreme poverty in remote rural communities separated by mountainous terrain with minimal infrastructure.
According to the Vodafone Foundation Director Andrew Dunnett: “HIV is an immense healthcare crisis for the people of Lesotho. This pioneering Vodafone Foundation programme will ensure that thousands of mothers and young children in some of the poorest communities in the world receive the care and support they need.”
The Vodafone Foundation programme is combining Vodafone’s M-Pesa mobile money service with travelling clinics and a smartphone app designed for healthcare professionals which enables the tracking of patients in remote areas. It’s like giving patients coupons but on M-Pesa.
The firm says the travelling clinics – using a fleet of 4×4 vehicles – provide on-site HIV testing in remote areas as part of a wider effort to provide basic primary healthcare. When people are identified as HIV positive, they are immediately registered with the M-Pesa mobile money service and receive the M-Pesa funds needed to pay for transportation to a treatment centre.
The patients details are also recorded – via mobile – on a central database so that their future treatment and care can be planned and recorded. These details can then be recalled in real time by healthcare professionals in the field using a smartphone app produced by the Vodafone Foundation and Vodacom Lesotho.
The programme is specifically oriented towards pregnant women, mothers and young children who are among the most vulnerable groups in Lesotho society as they are less able to walk many hours to the nearest HIV clinic. The Vodafone Foundation has developed the programme in conjunction with the Lesotho Ministry of Health.
The costs of the programme will be fully funded by the Lesotho government from mid-2017. The mobile clinics are run in partnership with Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) and Riders for Health.