South Africa has launched its first national web-based system that aims to make HIV data accessible to healthcare practitioners involved in managing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in near-real time.

The dashboard was developed in collaboration between PEPFAR and USAID through Right to Care, Boston University in the US, South Africa’s National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the National Department of Health (NDoH).

Viral load is the best predictor of an HIV positive patient’s response to treatment. It is estimated that there are nearly 6.75-million people infected with HIV in South Africa with 3.3 million on treatment and of those who have accessed viral load testing, over 80% are suppressed.

The online tool will help SA reach the UNAIDS 90 90 90 targets which aims to have 90% of people on HIV treatment to have a viral load fully suppressed by 2020.

The dashboard displays and analyses data in a way that healthcare professionals involved in managing the epidemic can easily engage with. It provides information at a national, provincial, district, single facility and individual levels, as well as for designated age groups.

“The dashboard is accessible to all implementing partners and will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions to contain the HIV epidemic and to fast-track viral suppression in those receiving antiretroviral therapy,” said Chief Medical Officer at Right to Care, Dr Pappie Majuba.

“The better we understand how patients are being managed, the better control we have of the epidemic,” said Pathologist at the NHLS and at the School of Pathology, Wits University, Dr Sergio Carmona.

“It will also help to swiftly allocate resources where needed such as infrastructure, nurses and doctors, monitor ‘hot spots’ and expedite the right responses, as well as evaluate the effectiveness of interventions to contain the epidemic. The data system also identifies HIV results for children and adults that require urgent action,” continued Dr Carmona.

The dashboard will use data from the NHLS and the District Health Information System (DHIS), and will provide quality data visualisation online to registered users to inform programme planning, monitoring, coordination and reporting.

“The dashboard was specifically developed because South Africa is one of the few countries that have a national and integrated pathology service through the NHLS,” said Deputy Director General of the NDoH, Yogan Pillay.

Dr Carmona says the NHLS is the sole provider of pathology services to close on 80% of SA’s population. Therefore, the laboratory results from all these individuals since 2004 reside in the NHLS’ corporate data warehouse. This allows for almost national coverage of all South Africans that are infected.

“Children and adolescents are often overlooked in our response to HIV/AIDS. In reporting on national Viral Loads and CD4 counts, particular attention has been paid to these vulnerable populations. The new system will enable healthcare workers to focus attention on high risk, HIV-infected children and adolescents to improve individual outcomes and meet the 90:90:90 targets,” said Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits University, Gayle Sherman.

The launch of the national dashboard was hosted by Right to Care when training with national and provincial stakeholders from the NDoH, the 90:90:90 Technical Working Group, and representatives of all implementing partners.

Training in the provinces will take place from January to March 2017 and in districts from April to June 2017.

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