THE PROBLEM: South Africa has more HIV positive citizens than any country in the world. In some provinces, more than 40% of the population are infected. Despite widespread availability of HIV testing at government clinics and free anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment, less than 25% have been tested and know their status. Further, only about 10% of those with AIDS who qualify for ARVs are currently receiving these lifesaving drugs.
Many people do not have direct access to HIV testing facilities and/or may be embarrassed to get tested due to the negative social stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Because the majority of HIV-infected patients in South Africa seek care only after they become symptomatic with end-stage AIDS (with the least likelihood of survival), the challenge is to find a low-cost, effective way to encourage people to get tested and treated before it’s too late.
THE INSIGHT: Almost 100% of South Africans have–or have access to–a mobile phone. If cell phones can be used to deliver geographically and culturally appropriate messages that encourage people to learn their HIV status earlier, it can connect people to existing “on-the-ground” HIV and TB clinical services for testing and treatment, as well as increase people’s adherence to ARV regimens once in treatment.
THE CHALLENGE: How might we use cellphones to encourage people to learn their HIV status earlier, connect people to existing “on-the-ground” HIV and TB clinical services for testing and treatment, as well as increase people’s adherence to ARV regimens once in treatment?
THE SOLUTION: Project Masiluleke sends 1 million texts per day to South African cell phones. The messages are broadcasted through the “Please Call Me” (PCM) response-option on cell phones so that those wishing to be contacted can then receive a private phone call containing accurate healthcare information and referral to regional healthcare centers capable of providing voluntary HIV testing and counseling, TB screening, and treatment with ARV therapies and anti-TB medication. Messages are culturally relevant and written in local languages.
THE IMPACT: The “Please Call Me” campaign has increased civilian calls to the national AIDS Helpline by 300% since 2008… so PCM has been responsible for over 1.2 million calls to the national Helpline per year. Project Masiluleke is launching a TxtAlert campaign for those on ARV treatments which will send reminders to patients of their upcoming clinic visits. Further, they are also at the prototype stage of creating self-test options for patients who want to learn their HIV status in the privacy of their homes.
THE INNOVATOR: Zinny Thabethe, an HIV positive female from Johannesburg, South Africa. Learn more about Zinny’s project at: http://vimeo.com/search?q=project+masiluleke
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