Cell phones saving lives in
KAMAL RAJ SIGDEL
When George Mburu hears his cell phone bleep on Sunday in his home in
Mburu, 32, is one of 500 HIV-positive patients in
Over two million people are infected with the virus in
The prevalent stigma and the fear attached with the virus have been stopping many people from coming to clinics. “Many patients here hesitate to visit public clinics even to get treatment fearing that their status would be public,” said Nurse Elizabeth Wibo at the
The cellphone project aims to tackle this stigma by offering a discreet monitoring system.
“We are hoping to take this pilot program to a massive scale by next year, when we will have our reports ready,” said Sarah Karanja, Coordinator of the pilot project. “The patients have found it very helpful and want it to continue. The results are very exciting.”
“For the last two years, the SMS has been reminding me about my anti-retroviral doses,” said Mburu at the HIV Clinic in Pumwani where he was on his quarterly visit to brief his progress report. “I feel much better now. I know someone, somewhere is taking care of me.”
The private nature of communication by cellphone seems to be a key to the project’s success. “Cell phones serve as great alternative because the patients face difficulties coming to public clinic for reasons like being noticed and stigmatized or they cannot absent their jobs for minor counseling,” said Karanja.
The SMS program has been emerging as one of the best solutions to promote behaviour change, abstinence, and adherence to drugs in other countries like
“Before I came here, I was so depressed,” said Virginia, a 35-year-old mother who was waiting at the HIV Clinic in Pumwani to know whether her three-month-old baby had the HIV virus. “Now, with strict adherence, treatment, and care, I have regained my health.” She is one of the lucky 17 percent HIV infected (350,000) who is receiving anti-retroviral treatment.
“The biggest challenge in combating HIV is adherence to anti-retroviral therapy,” said Dr. Francis Nyamiobo, a senior doctor at the clinic. “The best and efficient solution, I think in this age of communication, lies in utilizing the personal gazettes like cell phones to reach to the target population.”