Robotic pharmacists are dispensing drugs to people with HIV on the streets of South Africa.

With the robot dispenser, patients may no longer need to wait for hours at hospitals or clinics to get their monthly dose.

The pilot by the Right to Care project in Helen Joseph Hospital, Johannesburg, started last month with four units, and another two to be set up this year.

“It will be patients scanning in smart card IDs and accessing their three months’ prescription, forgoing the need to come all the way into a hospital or a clinic and wait for hours to access their medication”, the project’s director Fanie Hendriksz was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

The machines will come with their own source of power and will have a webcam with a pharmacist on-call if needed.

The country has the highest number of people living with HIV – 7 milion. However, 3.3 million people are not on drugs they should be, according to South Africa’s Department of Health says. In the past, the antiretroviral drugs have been available only via expensive and private care.

The robots will not being identified as HIV-related to prevent any social stigma associated with the disease. It will also dispense medicines also for other patients with chronic diseases like TB.

The Right to Care project is funded by the Department of Health and non-profit The Global Fund.

Image by Jon Rawlinson, CC BY 2.0