Providing home-based care for HIV/AIDS is critical in the African context, where the stigma attached to the disease often discourages patients from visiting health facilities. Cell-Life, a social enterprise based in South Africa, is developing innovative approaches to home care with their ‘Aftercare’ program.
In this program, Aftercare health workers monitor patients whom they visit at home. Workers use data-enabled mobile phones to record information about the patients’ medical status, medication adherence, and other relevant factors. The data are then transmitted via SMS to the central Cell-Life database, where care managers use a web-based system to access and monitor incoming patient information. Initial program results were encouraging, but significant challenges remain.
Although South Africa’s mobile penetration rate is high, the system is currently used on only one network using prepaid accounts, and the software is not yet available in any of South Africa’s national languages other than English. Cell-Life is currently working to address these issues so the program can be adopted on a national scale.
Additionally, Cell-Life runs a program for HIV positive mothers. Mothers with newborns will receive a 10 week program of SMS text messages that will encourage mothers to come to their post-natal appointments and continue on their chosen track of breast or formula feeding, and give facts about HIV/AIDS and treatment. After testing the program in a randomized controlled trial, more than 90% of mothers in the experimental group came in to treatment, versus only 78% of mothers in the control group. Given the almost entirely positive feedback wherein mothers felt more confident and comfortable with their HIV status and caring for their child, as well as the cost effective nature of the program, Cell-Life hopes to expand the program as soon as possible.