HP, Bill Clinton to Help Infants With HIV in Kenya

By accelerating diagnosis turnaround times, HP and the Clinton Health Access Initiative hope to bring timely treatment to tens of thousands of infants infected with HIV. How data centers, cloud computing, and SMS-enabled printers could be the future of public health in Kenya.

Kenya baby


Today is World AIDS Day. Yesterday, HP announced that it has teamed up with the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to help bring adequate treatment to infants infected with HIV in Kenya. By building five data centers in Kenya, two of which are already operational, HP and CHAI have set themselves the goal of cutting down diagnosis response times from several months to just one or two days.

“Almost 10% of women in Kenya have HIV,” Gabi Zedlmayer, HP’s Vice President of its Office of Global Social Innovation, tells Fast Company, adding that that means 120,000 Kenyan infants are exposed to HIV annually either by contracting it from their mother or breastfeeding. Timely and appropriate medical attention is crucial for infants infected with HIV: “If they don’t get treatment in time,” says Zedlmayer, “half of HIV patients will not see their second birthday.”

HP’s and CHAI’s initiative joins others, including a similar collaboration between UNICEF and Frog Design in Zambia and Malawi. HP, for its part, has set itself the goal of reaching 70,000 of the infants infected within the first year of the program, and then almost half again as many within the following year. “I’m pleased HP’s technology and expertise will enable the partnership with CHAI to save the lives of more than 100,000 infants in Kenya each year,” said Bill Clinton in a release.

The data centers HP and CHAI have been helping to build can be scaled up to support other health initiatives in the future. “This is something that hasn’t existed in Kenya,” says Zedlmayer. “They’re starting to build up an IT infrastructure in the health space.” HP spent $1 million in the effort, on things like servers, PCs, and local IT training. It also supported an project by students at Nairobi’s Strathmore University, who developed an application that uses cloud computing to make results available to health workers in the field with SMS-enabled printers.

A pro-bono spirit is increasingly a part of the culture at HP, claims Zedlmayer, saying that the company allows employees to spend four hours on such projects each month. She says of young employees, in particular, that “a lot wouldn’t even come to companies” like HP unless a spirit of volunteerism existed in the corporation: “they see that as a core value.”

In President Clinton’s assessment, the new collaboration helps “demonstrate how the private sector can and should operate in the developing world.”


[Image: Flickr user newbeatphoto]

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.