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The use of a spatial information system in the management of HIV/AIDS in South Africa

Karishma Busgeeth12* and Ulrike Rivett3

Author Affiliations

1 School of Architecture, Planning & Geomatics, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7700, Cape Town, South Africa

2 South African Cochrane Centre, Medical Research Council, PO Box 19070, Tygerberg 7505, South Africa

3 Department of Civil Engineering, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7700, Cape Town, South Africa

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International Journal of Health Geographics 2004, 3:13  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-3-13

Published: 7 July 2004



South Africa is experiencing an HIV/AIDS pandemic of shattering dimensions. The availability and provision of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs could bring relief to the situation, but the treatment is unfortunately complex with each patient being assigned a different antiretroviral therapy varying in diet-medication regiment. The context of South Africa, its variety of urban and rural settings adds to the challenge of administering and monitoring the HIV+ person throughout the treatment, which will last for the rest of their lives. The lack of physical infrastructure, reliable statistics and adequate resources hinder the efficient management of HIV/AIDS.


The collection of reliable data will be a first step to assess the status of HIV/AIDS in communities. A number of hospitals have started this process using the conventional approach to collect information about their patients using a paper-based system. Since time is of essence in the fight against the pandemic, data exchange between various hospitals, municipalities and decision-making bodies is becoming more and more important. The logical response to such a need is a computerised system, which will collect and administer HIV/AIDS related information within the local context and allow a monitored access to the data from a number of stakeholders.


The purpose of this study was to design and develop an HIV/AIDS database, which is embedded in a Spatial Information Management System. The pilot study area is the Gugulethu township in Cape Town where more than 27% of the 325 000 residents are HIV+. It is shown that the implementation of the HIV/AIDS database and the Spatial Information Management System can play a critical role in determining where and when to intervene, improving the quality of care for HIV+ patients, increasing accessibility of service and delivering a cost-effective mode of information.