A courier waits to take samples from a facility in rural Malawi to the main district lab. Courtesy of Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Riders for Health

Health workers in Malawi are using the power of two wheels to reach HIV patients living in remote areas.

In Malawi, motorcycles can zoom across narrow, unpaved pathways, easily traversing shrubs and creeks to reach HIV-positive patients. That's why Riders for Health and the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation are using them to literally squeeze through the health-care bottlenecks in Malawi's northern and central districts.

In 2013, 170,000 children were living with HIV in Malawi, many in remote areas where it's difficult to access HIV testing, prevention services, and medication. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation has been providing these services since 2001. Now, they've enlisted the assistance of the Riders—a 20-year-old organization that provides vehicles and trains community health workers to operate them in seven countries across Africa.   

In Malawi right now, there are 34 health riders; eight of them are assigned to the fight against HIV as a part of the collaboration with the foundation. In a BBC News Magazine video by journalists Victoria Gill and Eldson Chagara, the first two couriers who completed training tell their stories.  

Before the partnership began, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation had learned of instances where blood samples drawn from infants had never reached the testing lab because of transportation problems. The children's caregivers were reluctant to let them be tested a second time. But now, the couriers visit two to three sites a day, twice a week; the approach is more systematic, and the community's trust has climbed, says spokesperson Johanna Harvey. The more timely delivery of test results has also helped ease the anxiety of waiting families.

Health workers can access harder-to-reach patients on motorcycles in Malawi. (Courtesy of Riders for Health)

(H/T BBC Health Check)

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