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Mobile phones for HIV/AIDS education

06 October 2009

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Using mobile phones to fight HIV/AIDS, a report on a pilot project conducted in Western Uganda highlights the lack of access to knowledge and treatment on the dreaded disease. The document brings out the significance of mobile phones in tracking and prevention of the virus.

Using mobile phones to fight HIV/AIDS

Publisher: IRIN PlusNews, 2008

Using mobile phone technology, millions of people could be reached with HIV prevention messages.

africa mobile.jpg
Image credits: Google/ Cell phone technology in Africa

As Uganda's HIV prevalence is rising again, policy makers are on the look for innovative ways of educating people about the virus.

The document reports on a pilot project in western Uganda aimed at communicating knowledge about the disease and encouraging mobile phone subscribers to volunteer for HIV testing.

Text to Change (TTC), an NGO that uses a bulk short message service (SMS) platform for HIV and AIDS education, partnered with the AIDS Information Centre in Uganda (AIC) and Celtel, a local mobile phone network.

TTC chose a list of 15,000 Celtel subscribers in Mbarara district in southwestern Uganda and sent them an introductory SMS asking if they would like to participate in a free interactive quiz about HIV, with the incentive of handsets and airtime as rewards for correct answers.

In this project a question was sent each week; if the recipient answered correctly, a confirmation SMS was sent, and if he or she answered incorrectly, a rectifying message was sent.

Questions included:

"What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?", "How is HIV transmitted?", "Have you ever tested for HIV?” Of the about 15,000 subscribers contacted, the authors report that 2,500 of these responded to each question.

At the end of the trial period of questions and answers, participants were encouraged to go for HIV testing.

Over the pilot's six-week duration, the authors report that requests for HIV testing at the AIC Mbarara facility rose by 100 percent, while other people sought for HIV testing at other AIC partners around the district.

TIt was argued that more people would respond if the questions were written in local languages, and there was better sensitisation and awareness of the campaign.

It was concluded that the rapid growth of mobile phone technology provides an avenue that could potentially reach millions with messages.

Source: Eldis

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