South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world, with an estimated 5.7 million people living with the virus. Although we cannot shy away from these facts, it is worth noting that the country has been investing more in the fight against HIV than any other low and middle-income countries.
SA has the world’s biggest antiretroviral treatment programme and in the past few years, the country has made significant strides in HIV treatment and prevention and its latest innovation is proof that the nation is at the forefront in the battle against HIV/Aids. The country recently unveiled an antiretroviral drug dispensing machine that will soon be installed in rural areas.
The Automated Antiretroviral Drug Machine was developed at the Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg by a non-profit organisation called ‘Right to Care’. Four of these machines will be installed in one of Joburg’s biggest townships, Alexandra- an area with a high poverty rate.
Developed using robotics from Germany, the £63 000 machine will dispense drugs to patients in each community. Patients are to use their smartcard IDs to withdraw their medication and if it is needed, they have the option of being connected to a clinic or healthcare centre, using a webcam, where they can consult a pharmacist on call.
“We hope to have reached six sites this year. They will come with their own power source and have a link via a webcam to a center where there will be a pharmacist on call if needed – but generally it will be patients scanning in smartcard IDs and accessing their three months’ prescription, forgoing the need to come all the way into a hospital or a clinic and wait for hours to access their medication,” said Fanie Hendriksz, Managing Director of Right To Care’s ePharmacy project, the Guardian reported.
It is believed that this game-changing machine will save patients time and money, it solves the problem of having to travel and wait long periods before being attended to in a clinic or hospital. It is expected to be mostly helpful in rural parts of the country, in communities where the nearest clinic is over 50 km away.
The machines will also be dispensing other types of medication such as treatment for tuberculosis and diabetes.
According to reports, South Africa has the largest antiretroviral treatment programme globally and these efforts have been largely financed from its own domestic resources. The country now invests more than $1 billion annually to run its HIV and AIDS programmes.