UNICEF hopes to speed up AIDS screening in parts of Africa with drones that will link clinics and laboratories.
Drones are on the rise. They distribute abortion pills in Poland, allow sex scenes to be filmed in magnificent settings, and could help fight crime in Marseille. Now they could change the lives of thousands of people.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) is currently testing a system based on the use of drones to combat the spread of AIDS in parts of Africa. The goal is to diagnose the disease faster. The first drones flew to Malawi, which has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world. With these drones, the experts hope that those who have tested will receive the result a few days later, instead of waiting weeks or even months.
In Malawi, 15% of adults have the AIDS virus, as well as around 170,000 children. In 2014, only half of young people were receiving treatment, and 33,000 people died from the disease, including 10,000 children.
The lack of accurate diagnosis and the length of the wait play an important role in the spread of the virus. This drone program could dramatically reverse the mortality curve.
As baby tests are more complex, Malawian children born to HIV-positive mothers must pass special tests, which are performed in only eight laboratories across the country, according to UNICEF.
As a result, mothers sometimes have to wait months to find out if their child has the AIDS virus, according to clinic staff across the country.
Translation: “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the first drone that helps with AIDS screening (by sending tests to laboratories) in Malawi, where one tenth of the population is HIV positive. ”
Interviewed by Wired, Angela Travis, UNICEF Communications, Promotion and Partnerships Manager, said:
“The transport network is unreliable, there are a lot of delays, the bikes are very expensive, people have no money to pay for gas and the results are not recovered. A drone would solve these delay problems.
The samples are very light, they are contained on cards. They put the blood on these cards, let it dry and place them in airtight sachets. ”
The system has already been approved by the country’s Minister of Health and national civil aviation authorities. The drones will be able to transport a maximum of 250 samples each to the infrastructures responsible for analyzing them. During the tests, they covered a distance of 10 kilometers between laboratories and health clinics.
En plus, ce programme va permettre de réduire de moitié les coûts de transport des échantillons, selon Mahimbo Mdoe, représentant de l’Unicef au Malawi. Interrogé par Vice, il a ajouté :
“Imaginez : vous êtes maman et vous devez attendre six mois pour savoir si votre enfant est séropositif ou pas ? Ce serait terrifiant.
La nécessité est la mère de toutes les inventions. Et en ce moment, c’est ce que le Malawi fait.”