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IBM Teams With Yale to Tackle HIV in Ghana

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - IBM (IBM) has teamed up with the government of Ghana and Yale University as part of a technology-intensive project to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the African nation.

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, who has pledged to eliminate Mother- to-Child Transmission (eMTCT) of HIV in the country, announced the consortium on Monday. In addition to Yale, IBM is working with the Ghana Health Service and The ONE campaign, which aims to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM is working with the Ghana Health Service and experts at Yale to build the public health initiative. Pro bono teams from the company's Corporate Service Corps will "design a blueprint for implementing and managing eMTCT efforts", according to a statement released by the Ghanaian government. This strategy will encompass national, district and community efforts, it said.

Technology will feature prominently, with IBM providing System z mainframes to support the initiative. The mainframes will harness cloud, mobile and big data technology to capture, store and retrieve data from a variety of locations, such as clinics, offices and remote sites.

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The consortium's goal is to reduce Ghana's rate of mother-to-child HIV infection to less than 5% by 2018, meeting the World Health Organization's standard for elimination. President Mahama wants to create a system that will cut the rate of transmission to less than 20% by 2020.

Ghana currently ranks among the 22 countries with the highest burden of HIV among pregnant women, according to the government's statement, and lack of public awareness, limited access to diagnostic tests and cultural stigma often stand in the way of testing.

IBM is no stranger to major public health projects. In 2009 and 2010, for example, Big Blue worked with Mexico's Ministry of Health to model the spread of H1N1 when swine flu cases in Mexico City hit pandemic levels.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, in her annual letter to shareholders earlier this month, vowed to maintain the company's significant presence in hardware, highlighting, in particular, its mainframe business. Big data, which refers to the management of vast quantities of unstructured data, or information that is outside the realm of traditional databases, is another key technology area for IBM.

Experts have already identified 2014 as a crucial 12 months in IBM's 103-year history. The company has kicked off the year with a slew of major announcements such as a $2.3 billion deal to sell its low-end server business to Lenovo, billion-dollar investments in Watson supercomputer and cloud technology and plans to rebalance its workforce.

IBM shares rose 0.61% to $187.81 on Monday trading.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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