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Each year in Kenya
, roughly 200,000 HIV positive mothers will give birth to a son or daughter. The latest data has shown that if an HIV exposed infant can be tested at 4-6 weeks of age, then initiated on HIV medication before 12 weeks of age if positive, their chance of dying is decreased by 75%. Conversely, 50% of all children that are HIV positive will die by their second birthday, and 75-90% will die by their fifth birthday if not started on HIV medication. This is a huge problem in Kenya where close to 200,000 babies are born to HIV positive mothers each year. On a national level in Kenya, roughly 10-15% of all babies born to HIV positive mothers are ever tested for HIV. Of those babies that test positive, roughly 5-15% are ever given HIV care or followed up with, the rest fall through the gaps, unknown of their outcomes.
HIV/AIDS continues to have a devastating impact on people living in resource-limited countries around the globe. More than 2.3 million children worldwide are living with HIV, with 90% of these children living in sub-Saharan Africa. Roughly 700,000 newly born infants become HIV positive each year with little access to HIV care. Without intervention, 15%-45% of these infants born to HIV infected mothers acquire the virus, proven to increase their risk for rapid disease progression and early death. In the absence of antiretroviral therapy, more than 50% of children will die before their second birthday and 75% will die by age five.
Global Health Innovations (GHI)
has created a simple, but robust, technological tool, called the HITSystem© (HIV Infant Tracking System) that is capable of tracking all HIV exposed infant testing samples and subsequent interventions that are vital to providing care for these babies. The HITSystem© is an automated tool that can be utilized in the most rural areas of Africa. Piggybacking off of cellular phone towers to provide mobile broadband, this allows hospitals even in remote areas of Africa to utilize GHI’s system to provide care for their HIV exposed infants. In addition, no matter where GHI is geographically, they, along with any designated caretakers, can see in “real time” exactly what the selected hospital is seeing each day.
Global Health Innovations focuses on seven time-sensitive interventions that are vital to infant survival associated with Early Infant Diagnosis programs and facilitation of antiretroviral therapy (HIV medication). Test results and the tracking of infant care once HIV exposed infants are identified as positive or negative are automated to ensure appropriate medical care within the defined time sensitive periods. The tool functions in “real-time” and alerts individual hospitals, laboratories, and caretakers, even in remote locations, on a daily basis. When a designated sequential intervention in the process is or is not implemented within in the designated time frame, an alert is generated directly to the HITSystem© to notify the appropriate parties.
What does all this mean? In the simplest terms, it means “LIFE” for these babies in Africa that are affected by HIV/AIDS. Being able to test them and facilitate care for them provides a life-saving opportunity and chance for them to grow up to be healthy children!
In the past year
, Global Health Innovations has implemented the HITSystem© in 15 hospitals in Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania. As of summer 2013, we have over 4000 HIV positive mothers and their babies enrolled in our program, including over 600 HIV exposed babies in the largest maternal hospital in East Africa. We have seen dramatic improvements in scaling up infant HIV testing and provision of antiretroviral therapy (HIV medication treatment) in infants testing positive for HIV. In the largest maternal hospital in the country, we have insured that over 98% of all HIV positive infants in our program have been started on HIV medication, and we continue to monitor and track over 99% of all HIV exposed infants enrolled in our program. This is a drastic improvement where the overall percentage country-wide is only around 50-60%.
What does all of this mean? This means these mothers and babies do not fall through the gaps and that they receive the comprehensive HIV care they need to live healthy lives! We are scheduled to train 50 more hospitals and implement the HITSystem© in these new hospitals by January, 2014.