HP, Clinton Collaborate on Infant HIV Testing, Treatment in Kenya

HP has joined with CHAI (the Clinton Health Access Initiative) to provide the technological backbone for testing and treating infants exposed to HIV in Kenya.

Hewlett-Packard has joined with Clinton Health Access Initiative to provide the technological backbone for testing and treating infants exposed to HIV in Kenya.

Former President Bill Clinton founded CHAI in 2002 to boost integrated health systems around the world and increase care and treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and other conditions, according to CHAI.

CHAI's expertise includes partnering with governments to overcome health challenges in developing countries. Ways to overcome challenges include lowering health care costs, and speeding access to technology that can save lives, CHAI reports on its Web site.

"Technology and innovation are key to solving many of the most pressing challenges of our world, none of which are more urgent than a disease which takes the lives of 31 children every minute," former President Bill Clinton said in a statement. "I'm pleased HP's technology and expertise will enable the partnership with CHAI to save the lives of more than 100,000 infants in Kenya each year, and in the process, demonstrate how the private sector can and should operate in the developing world."

Announced on Nov. 30, the agreement calls for HP to build five data centers adjoined to four existing laboratories in Kenya. The HP Office of Global Social Innovation has already completed two of the data centers: one at KEMRI (the Kenya Medical Research Institute) and another at NASCOP (National AIDS/STI Control Program) headquarters.

KEMRI centers in Busia, Kisumu and the Ministries of Health headquarters at Afya House will also open HP data centers in 2011.

With the initiative, HP and CHAI hope to improve on the paper-based system previously used, which could take up to three months to provide a diagnosis and dangerously delays treatment.

"What's really critical is at that early age, if they are HIV positive, if they're not put on the anti-retroviral drugs as quickly as possible, you exponentially increase their chance of dying by their second birthday," Paul Ellingstad, director of health initiatives for HP's office of global social innovation, told eWEEK.

From the time lab results were available to when a courier delivered the results to the mother could take anywhere from a couple of days to up to three months, Ellingstad said.

With under 30 days being critical for the infant's survival when infected with HIV, speeding up the process to have the results back in two days maximum provides a much-needed buffer, he said.

"Once results in the national test lab are available, they're entered into an electronic database. You can instantly send a text message from the national lab back to the health clinic with results," Ellingstad explained.

By sending test results to HP's SMS-enabled printers in health clinics, rather than waiting for slower courier service, HIV test results could be delivered within one to two days after they're ready.

The quicker results are essential for the infected infants, who need to start anti-retroviral treatment quickly, according to Ellingstad.

"With this SMS-based printing technology and with the data centers and automation, we're able to very accurately guarantee that we can have the results back to the rural health clinic within that 30-day window," he said.

"You've got the national test lab sending the text message, which is then received on the printer in the rural health clinic, and it will print out the results of the HIV tests for the health worker to then share with the mother," Ellingstad said.

Students at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, have created a cloud database application at an HP lab to track the project and publish tests online. HP will provide financing and consulting to the Strathmore students. Using the application, health care personnel will be able to transmit the status of test results online, as well as to and from rural health centers and Kenya's Ministry of Health.

HP's $1 million investment also includes servers, storage, PCs, networking equipment, SMS-enabled printers and local IT training and support.

"The impact of the work done by HP and CHAI is incredibly significant and will help create healthy futures for families across Kenya," said Beth Mugo, Kenyan minister for public health and sanitation, in a statement. "It will also support our government's effort to collect and analyze health data that is useful for guiding policy and health service delivery. We believe these efforts will facilitate our ability to provide long-term health interventions that truly make a difference in keeping our population healthy and productive."

Meanwhile, on Nov. 8 HP donated $1 million toward the mHealth Alliance's work to promote the health of pregnant women and newborns. The mHealth Alliance is a mobile health organization formed by The U.N. Foundation, Vodafone Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation.