Pharmacies are Key to Stopping HIV in Southeast Asia

mClinica’s digital pharmacy platform SwipeRx—the largest in Southeast Asia connecting over 170,000 pharmacy professionals across 7 countries—is being used to help Cambodia and other countries stop the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  In partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Global Fund, USAID and FHI360, mClinica Pharmacy Solutions is motivating pharmacies to improve access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment using online awareness, education and referral tools. 


In 2017, Cambodia became one of seven countries globally to achieve global targets for HIV treatment and viral suppression. Despite its successful HIV response, Cambodia faces important challenges to achieving the global target for HIV testing, as well as increasing HIV treatment and viral suppression results among key populations at risk.  Pharmacies represent an important part of the solution given that they represent a first-line point of care for key populations at risk of HIV and other STIs.  Using pharmacies to make HIV prevention, rapid testing and other HIV innovations easier for communities at risk to access is a promising approach to increase coverage of underserved groups and help connect them with health facilities offering comprehensive HIV care.


Across Southeast Asia, mClinica’s digital platform of 170,000 pharmacy operators supports governments and their civil society, private sector and global health partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other public health priorities including family planning, tuberculosis, COVID-19 and antimicrobial resistance.  In Cambodia, mClinica partners with the Ministry of Health, the Pharmacy Council of Cambodia, FHI360, the Global Fund and USAID’s Enhancing Quality Healthcare Activity (EQHA) to engage pharmacies in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Using SwipeRx—the largest digital pharmacy network currently connecting more than half of all pharmacy professionals in Cambodia—mClinica deploys digital content to empower pharmacies to provide better care for clients at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.  Earlier this year, mClinica’s SwipeRx app became the first digital provider of continuing professional development to be approved by the Pharmacy Council of Cambodia.  For the first time, pharmacy professionals can now update their professional skills and knowledge through digital modules accessible free of charge in the convenience of their pharmacy or home.


Beginning in May 2020, Cambodia’s Ministry of Health and the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STIs (NCHADS) partnered with mClinica to leverage the SwipeRx analytics engine to conduct a rapid digital survey to understand barriers and opportunities to motivating pharmacies to help stop the spread of HIV and other STIs.  Through this research, mClinica and NCHADS learned that 39% of respondents were unaware of the link between STIs and increased risk of HIV transmission. In addition, 92% were aware of all HIV testing options, including rapid HIV testing.  One out of every four pharmacy professionals reported believing that individuals are to blame for their HIV infection. While most pharmacy operators interviewed reported counseling and referring their clients at risk of HIV and other STIs, among those who were uncomfortable counseling for HIV/STI care, the main barrier identified was a need for training.


Translating these research insights into action, mClinica collaborated with NCHADS, the Pharmacy Council of Cambodia and FHI360 to develop and deploy the first SwipeRx awareness campaign and CPD module focused on increasing pharmacy contributions to HIV and other STIs.  Consistent with the research findings, SwipeRx content was designed to i) introduce the benefits of rapid HIV testing coming to pharmacies in Cambodia soon, ii) encourage improved condom merchandizing to make it easier for pharmacy customers to find and purchase condoms, iii) recognize and refer customers with STI symptoms to a health facility, instead of dispensing antibiotics and iv) provide compassionate care for all customers.  More than 76,000 points of exposure to HIV-content were registered through SwipeRx app and social media channels in the first seven weeks of deployment.  Among pharmacists who accessed the first digital CPD course on HIV and other STIs and completed the post-CPD assessment, 94% correctly answered the majority of questions and received accreditation units from the Pharmacy Council of Cambodia.

One of the posters disseminated through SwipeRx to encourage pharmacies to refer clients with STI symptoms reads: 


Untreated sexually transmitted infections can lead to serious health problems including HIV, infertility and transmission to others including unborn children.


Clients with symptoms of sexually transmitted infections need to visit a health facility

As one SwipeRx user from Preah Sihanuk province explained, “after seeing the SwipeRx HIV posters, I am now thinking more about how to advise customers with STI symptoms and refer them to hospital rather than dispensing antibiotics. I believe doing so could help build my reputation and help protect my community from HIV and other illnesses.”  In this way mClinica is leveraging its digital pharmacy platform to help Governments in Cambodia and other countries in Southeast Asia to bring HIV/STI prevention, diagnosis and treatment care closer to underserved communities at risk.

mClinica Pharmacy Solutions has created the largest pharmacy network in Southeast Asia by empowering pharmacies to be the center of care for HIV and numerous other critical public health challenges.  Our Trade and Patient Solutions enable more than 40,000 pharmacies to operate more efficiently and effectively.  This unique position allows mClinica and our partners to generate unparalleled pharmacy insights for the benefit of public and private health partners who are now able to reach the fragmented pharmacy channel with unprecedented scale and speed.  Our easy-to-use, scalable and industry compliant solutions generate positive social impact as they improve affordability for pharmacy clients, increase access to quality, affordable medicines and boost adherence.  mClinica Pharmacy Solutions operates across 7 markets in Southeast Asia.

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