On April 16th, a long-haul truck driver named Simon was the first person to have his fingerprint scanned prior to having his blood pressure checked as part of a new pilot programme being run at our Roadside Wellness Centre (RWC) in Cato Ridge, South Africa. The pilot programme, which will also run at our Beitbridge RWC in Zimbabwe, will collect fingerprint data from clients on a voluntary basis in order to improve client identification and simplify follow-up treatment. While the pilot has only started this month, we have already seen a high acceptance rate among clients visiting the clinic.

Rolling out biometric identification across our network will be an important addition to our electronic health passport system, called COMETS, which was developed and designed in close cooperation with ORTEC. Currently, we rely on clients presenting their physical health passport in order for us to access health records in COMETS. The addition of fingerprint scanners will make it easier for staff to access accurate and up-to-date client information collected at any clinic in North Star’s network. By doing so, North Star will also be able to provide an improved experience for our regular clients and increased capacity to measure health trends at the local, national, and regional level.

Funding for the pilot has been generously provided by the AIDS Fonds, a Dutch non-profit organization that supports scientific research, prevention and treatment services for vulnerable populations, and improved rights of people living with HIV. Fingerprint readers have been sourced via the German company Dermalog, which has been helpful providing technical support during the integration of the fingerprint reader into COMETS and the pilot.

The first phase of this pilot will last for a period of 2 to 3 months. If the pilot proves to be successful, we will gradually roll out the system across the entire North Star network. Until then, Sister Margaret will continue to offer the new service to visitors in Cato Ridge.

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