Unicef along with the Malawi government are leading a trial based on the use of drones to reduce waiting times for HIV test results in infants living in rural areas.
Malawi has a national HIV prevalence rate of 10 percent, still one of the highest in the world. Currently it can take almost two months to get samples from a healthcare facility to an equipped lab and for the results to be returned.
Judith Sherman of Unicef HIV programme explained: “There are many delays in the continuum of getting HIV positive children on treatment, they need to come in early for testing, ideally before 2 months, between 6 and 8 weeks, their tests, the dry bloodspots need to get from the health facilities to one of the 8 laboratories nationwide”
The drone is able to carry up to 250 tests, or 1kg of samples, at once.
The recent first successful test flight has completed a 10 kilometer trip from a community health centre to a hospital in the capital Lilongwe.
Factors such as poor roads and high transport costs in remote areas cause delays in testing, preventing access to vital anti-retroviral treatment.