Digital Square at PATH and mLab partner to award Digital Health tech grants to entities revolutionising treatment adherence in HIV and TB

14 February, 2024



Keketso Matsuma

South Africa - February 14, 2024 - In an attempt to identify new innovative approaches to combat the devastating impact of HIV and TB, Digital Square at PATH and mLab have joined forces to award R1.2 million grants to two projects in South Africa.  Tuberculosis (TB) remains a formidable challenge, claiming thousands of lives annually, with HIV exacerbating the crisis. 

According to WHO, in 2022 alone, approximately 304,000 individuals fell ill due to TB, with an estimated 56,000 succumbing to the disease, a staggering figure largely attributed to HIV co-infection.  With South Africa having the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world, and tuberculosis (TB) being the leading cause of death in South Africa, tremendous potential remains to grow and harness in-country technological and digital health expertise to innovatively solve health obstacles in a sustainable and impactful manner.

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Responding to this challenge, Digital Square at PATH and mLab are collaborating on an initiative, ‘Optimising Data Systems and Digital Health in South Africa’, aimed at identifying, fostering and fast-tracking the implementation of innovative digital health solutions.  Following a rigorous selection process, two standout projects emerged as the recipients of the grants.

Professor Ronelle Burger, Applied Health Economist from the University of Stellenbosch, and her team that have created a conversational mobile health platform will benefit from the grant. Burger’s platform, leveraging behavioural economics and gamified features, aims to bolster treatment adherence among TB patients.  “Receiving this grant is a pivotal moment for us.  It propels our mission to develop a scalable solution that empowers TB patients to conquer the disease,” Burger remarked enthusiastically.

The second grant recipient, Neo Hutiri, Engineer and founder of Technovera Pty Ltd, has devised a revolutionary solution to streamline medication collection for HIV/TB patients.  Hutiri’s ‘smart community chronic collection system that leverages infrastructural resources in communities, promises to slash waiting times from hours to a mere 22 seconds, sparing patients the ordeal of long queues at public clinics.  “We’re on a mission to harness technology for the betterment of healthcare delivery.  This grant accelerates our journey toward realising that vision,” Hutiri affirmed.

“We were immensely impressed by the response to the call for applications, “ says Anzel Schonfeldt, Director at Digital Square.  “There is clearly no shortage of creative ideas to address some of the challenges posed, which included the high loss to follow-up rate for HIV and TB, and undiagnosed TB cases and transmission risk,” she adds.   

Nicoli Koorbanally, CEO at mLab highlights, “The solutions presented by Burger and Hutiri are testament to the transformative role that technology can play in alleviating challenges in the public health sector.  This investment underscores our pursuit of advancing healthcare in South Africa through the investment in technology innovation.”

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