Project Masiluleke: Using mobiles to tackle HIV/AIDS

South Africa has more HIV positive citizens than any country in the world. In some provinces, more than 40% of the population is infected. Yet only 2% of South Africans have ever been tested for HIV. Testing and anti-retrovirals are now available in all parts of the country. And yet, of those who are HIV positive, a mere 10% are receiving anti-retroviral therapy – leaving 90% untreated, infectious and likely to die.

HIV/AIDS carries a huge social stigma in South Africa, preventing many from getting tested or pursuing treatment, and there is wide-spread misinformation about how the disease is contracted.

Project Masiluleke seeks to harnesses the power of mobile technology to address these issues. Here is a video about the Project.

Meaning ‘hope’ and ‘warm counsel’ in Zulu, Project Masiluleke brings together a coalition of world-class partners – including iTeach, the Praekelt Foundation, frog design, Nokia Siemens Networks and the National Geographic Society. The first phase was launched on October 1, 2008, when a text message was sent to 1 million phones – the largest-ever use of mobile messaging to address HIV.

The key elements and stages of Project Masiluleke include:

“Please Call Me” x 1 Million x 365 - messages broadcast in the unused space of “Please Call Me” (PCM) text messages – a special, free form of SMS text widely used in South Africa and across the continent. Trained operators provide callers with accurate healthcare information, counseling and referrals to local testing clinics.

TxtAlert - a system of text messaging to remind patients of scheduled clinic visits to help ensure they adhere to ARV regimens.

HIV Self-Testing with Mobile Support - The project partners are actively exploring a low cost HIV self-testing with mobile counseling support. Analogous to a pregnancy test, these distributed diagnostics would provide a free, private and reliable way for anyone to take the critical first step of knowing his or her status, with high-quality information provided via mobile device.

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