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'Phones for Health' Campaign Targets AIDS in Africa

An information-sharing system for health workers in Rwanda will be expanded to Nigeria and other countries. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

Recently we talked about Voxiva, a provider of information technology systems for health workers in poor countries. This Washington-based company has been working for three years with the government of Rwanda. Voxiva created a system that uses mobile phones and other devices for health workers to report and share information on HIV/AIDS.

That same technology will now be used in a wider effort to fight the deadly virus in other African countries. A campaign launched by a partnership of public and private organizations aims to use cell phones to improve HIV/AIDS care.

The ten-million-dollar campaign is called "Phones for Health." Health workers will use mobile phones loaded with special software to enter information into a central computer system. The workers will also be able to use the Motorola handsets to receive treatment guidelines, order medicines and get training materials.

Phones for Health was announced in February at the GSM World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. GSM is the global system for mobile communications, a cellular technology used for voice and data services.

In addition to Voxiva, other partners include the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, started by President Bush, and the GSM Association. This is a trade group that represents more than seven hundred mobile phone operators in two hundred eighteen countries.

MTN, the leading operator in Africa, is another partner in the effort, as are Motorola and the Accenture company.

The chairman of Voxiva, Paul Meyer, says the program will start in Rwanda and Nigeria. It will then spread to eight other countries over the next several years. The campaign is currently working to identify which African countries will be included, he says.

The campaign will work closely with health ministries, international health groups and others. In the future, the Phones for Health program could be expanded further in Africa and to parts of Asia.

Paul Meyer says the technology offers a way for countries to bring together separate information systems for diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. As a result, he says, limited health resources could be used more effectively.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by Jill Moss. Transcripts and audio archives of our reports are at I’m Faith Lapidus.