Author: Novarum DX
As we reflect on World AIDS Day, 36.7 million people have been diagnosed as HIV positive and the lives of countless others are indirectly affected.
‘Everybody Counts’ is the theme of an awareness campaign, led by WHO, which advocates access to safe and affordable medicines, including effective diagnostics.
Early and accurate diagnosis is essential in preventing the spread of HIV. The challenge is intensified in resource poor settings, where limited access to insufficient treatment and testing exposes these local populations to risk of infection. Once diagnosed, those patients may not immediately begin treatment and need regular follow-up to monitor immune response levels – something all the harder in remote or resource poor locations.
The developed world can encounter a different challenge with HIV. Patients in high risk groups want to be able to check their own status without the stigma and overreliance on regular visits to STD clinics.
Everybody is Connected
The mobile phone offers a powerful technological response towards tackling the global HIV epidemic. There are now officially more mobile phones than people and this connected global network between people, data and systems offers huge potential to revolutionise patient care.
In resource poor settings, mobile phones compensate for a lack of physical infrastructure due to living in remote environments. The ability to transform a smartphone into a diagnostic test reader can help local populations overcome geographical barriers when accessing regular healthcare. Testing can be performed remotely with the results, of lab-quality, delivered to a field technician or patient directly from the point of care.
Mobile phone connectivity also enables results to be shared securely with healthcare professionals online. Sharing data via a mobile ecosystem helps to monitor the spread of infectious disease and identifies hot spots where viruses are rife and in need of more targeted medical resource. This also has the potential to help patients monitor their own condition frequently, before reaching the thresholds for treatment decided by clinicians or aid agencies.
Point of care testing is more established in the developed world. In particular, the increasing acceptance of smartphone readers and mobile medical apps is already used to manage chronic illness and to test for infectious disease. Smartphone readers empower patients to self-test, monitor conditions and manage treatment plans from the privacy and comfort of their own home.
The ability to self-test for an infectious disease, such as HIV, raises two critical questions – has the test been performed correctly and what if the test outcome is HIV positive?
Operating a mobile phone is an inherent behaviour. Widespread adoption of mobile apps has been expedited by the design of intuitive user-interfaces which simplifies our everyday tasks. Smartphone test readers feature in-built app instructions, or test choreography, which provides visual cues and step-by-step guidance to perform the test correctly.
If the test result is positive, it’s imperative that a person diagnosed with HIV seeks professional advice immediately. In addition to local healthcare, mobile medical apps enable supplementary support by providing a tool for sharing test results and opening direct lines of communication between the patient and a healthcare practitioner. This connected network ensures that no patient in receipt of bad news is left to deal with the diagnosis on their own and provides a route for supporting preventative advice to at risk individuals.
If you would like to learn more about HIV prevention, treatment and how you can get involved in fundraising, visit the official World AIDS Day website: https://www.worldaidsday.org