Uganda’s ministry of health, the Academy for Health Innovation, Uganda, and Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) collaborated on the medical drones pilot at Bufumira, which carried anti-retroviral drugs ARVs to more than 1,000 people living with HIV.
According to a 2020 report by UNAIDS, Uganda has an HIV prevalence of 5.8% among adults aged between 15-49; an estimated 1.4 million people living with HIV. Located about 60 miles from the nation’s capital, Kampala, and home to more than 67,000 people, Kalangala district has an HIV prevalence rate of 18%, far higher than the national rate.
The delivery of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and healthcare is difficult, weather-dependent, and risky for healthcare workers, as travel into the region is possible only by boat. The drones, it’s hoped, which cost about £4,000 each, carry loads of up to 1kg and fly for 150km, will “close that last mile”, said Andrew Kambugu, executive director at Makerere University Infectious Disease Institute (IDI). The drone was a pilot for a new project which will now see 20 scheduled flights a month, carrying mostly HIV medicines out to 78 community groups and health facilities across the widely scattered Ssese islands, which have the highest HIV prevalence in Uganda.
Other African countries, including Rwanda and Ghana, are also using drones to deliver blood and medical supplies. The technology estimated to be serving more than 22 million people.