Medical Drones Project
The Academy for Health Innovation Uganda-IDI at Makerere University, with the support of Johnson & Johnson are implementing a new research project; a collaborative program to pilot the use medical drones to deliver lifesaving HIV medications to people living in the Kalangala District more quickly, safely and efficiently than is currently possible. Regularly scheduled flights carrying antiretroviral therapies (ARTs) for the treatment of HIV are commencing in the region, which has the highest prevalence of HIV in the nation.
The medical drones program has been designed and implemented from the ground up to be enduring, sustainable for continued operations and deliveries. The team needed to provide the technical and administrative support to maintain ongoing flights have been hired and trained locally, which will help contribute to a more robust local economy, health system capacity and infrastructure.
The program will also serve as an important opportunity for researchers to understand, assess and quantify how effective medical drones are at delivering medications to people living with HIV by planning a Randomized Control Trial (RCT). The data from this RCT will help inform future efforts to scale drone technology to solve other last mile delivery challenges, both in Uganda and elsewhere.
Uganda has made significant strides in reducing the burden of HIV over the past decade, but the Kalangala District has continued to report high rates of new cases and access to treatment remains inaccessible for many. The island geography of the region makes the delivery of health care difficult, as travel is possible only by boat and is inefficient, unreliable and potentially dangerous for the healthcare workers who journey from island to island to provide care. The medical drones will help overcome these challenges by serving remote landing sites in Bufumira sub-county, reaching and delivering ARTs to approximately 1,000 people living with HIV/AIDS.