UNICEF uses drones in Malawi to speed up HIV diagnosis

Poor transport infrastructure in rural areas of the southeast African country causes long delays in HIV testing. The use of drones to carry blood samples reduces the time it takes to make a diagnosis.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

People look on during a drone awareness and safety demonstration on June 22, in regards to humanitarian drone corridor testing under the UNICEF-funded Humanitarian Drone Corridor testing project, in Chanthunthu Village Health Clinic in Kasungu.

UNICEF has introduced the use of drones to transport blood samples for HIV tests in hard-to-reach areas of Malawi.

As poor roads in rural parts of the south-eastern African country cause long delays in giving anxious families a positive or negative diagnosis, drones are seen as a cost-effective measure to reduce the waiting time for results of HIV tests.

"We wanted to test the feasibility complementing the existing transportation system to reduce the turnaround time between when a sample is taken from an infant and to a laboratory to be tested for HIV," UNICEF HIV and AIDS chief Judith Sherman said.

"I don't know whether my child got the disease from me or if he's okay; so the waiting is painful," one HIV-positive mother shared.

Mother-to-child transmission accounted for 17,000 new HIV infections among newborns in 2008, according to UNICEF.

TRT World’s Fidelis Mbah reports.