Malawi has one of the highest rates of HIV prevalence in the world, and many of those infected are children. Only half of the 130,000 youth living with HIV were being treated in 2014. That year, 10,000 children died from HIV-related diseases.
With that in mind, UNICEF and the government of Malawi have launched a pilot program to test whether unmanned aerial vehicles can help families test their infants sooner. Babies born to HIV-positive mothers have to undergo specialized tests that only eight labs in the country have the facilities to analyze, according to UNICEF Malawi.
Getting the results of those tests can take almost 10 weeks, a problem for infected infants who stand a much higher chance of surviving if they are treated with antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible. Blood samples have to be transported by motorbike or ambulance to a hospital where a lab will wait up to two weeks until a batch of tests is ready to be dispatched back to the community health center. Delays in the analysis of the blood samples are common too.
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