In Malawi, you can find one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world. Sadly, many of the infected are children. According to Lily Kuo of Quartz, “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.”
UNICEF, working with the government of Malawi, are testing drones as pickup and delivery mechanisms for blood samples. HIV antiretroviral therapies are most effective when they are given early and historically getting test results could take almost 10 weeks.
With drone delivery, those two months could be reduced to days. “What we’re hoping is that when you get leapfrog technology like this it can catalyze the whole system,” Angela Travis, chief of communication for UNICEF in Malawi, tells Quartz.
The pilot program will last through the end of the week, with delivery drones traveling between hospitals and villages in the outskirts of Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital in different weather conditions and at various times of day. Yesterday, (Mar. 14) the drone successfully completed a 10-kilometer (6-mile) route, carrying simulated HIV tests to Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe in 20 minutes. A slot in the center of the drone carries the dried blood samples, which are not infectious.
Malawi, officially the Republic of Malawi, is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Malawi is over 118,000 km2 (45,560 sq mi) with an estimated population of 16,777,547 (July 2013 est.). Its capital is Lilongwe, which is also Malawi’s largest city; the second largest is Blantyre and the third is Mzuzu. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area. The country is also nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa”.