WhatsApp technology ensures timely ART to HIV+ve infants born to infected pregnant women

THPS uses WhatsApp technology to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment of HIV exposed infants in Pwani region from remote health facilities located as far as 270 kms (Rufiji). Dried blood spot (DBS) samples are sent for testing at PCR laboratory in Da es Salaam at Temeke reference PCR testing laboratory in Dar es Salaam

This innovation uses a  famous smartphone application WhatApp,  a ‘DBS Pwani WhatsApp’ group with 245 members across seven districts  was formed to improve communication between PMTCT sites, Temeke Zonal PCR Lab , R/CHMTs, and THPS staff and the Courier agent (EMS) for timely communication of positive DBS results. The goal was to overcome the major bottleneck surrounding early infant diagnosis i.e. prolonged turnaround time (TAT) for DBS results feedback to caregivers/parents. The application is also used to fast track HIV positive results from lab to site level, communicate on rejected samples and tracing missing results from PCR lab to site level. After using it for over a year we evaluated the effectiveness of this system. The number, types of messages, sending person and their purpose were noted.

Results: Over the 12 months period there were a total of 946 messages shared with the following distribution: 256 (27%) messages sent by health providers at facilities, 259 (27%) by Temeke PCR testing lab, 186 (20%) by Courier staff, 183 (19%) by THPS staff, 65 (7%), by CHMT members and 17 (2%) by RHMT.  Majority (84%) of messages shared in this group were related to EID; aiming at:

  • Seeking and sharing clarifications regarding DBS results from the lab; n=742 (78%)
  • Sharing HIV exposed infants ID (HEID) numbers for missing DBS results; n=158 (17%)
  • Fast tracking results of released HIV+ve DBS results from the labs to health facilities and parents/guardians; n=15 (2%)
  • Sending images of incompletely filled lab forms form lab to health facilities; n=13 (1%)
  • Sharing images of results HIV –ve investigation forms that have not been seen within 14 days at the health facility; n=158 (17%)

Conclusion: WhatsApp is a cost-effective, fast and reliable means of ensuring timely diagnosis of HIV exposed infants at all sites including remote health facilities; among providers and THPS working within different levels of health system. Through this system all HIV positive results reach the caregiver within 7 days.