Communicate uses mobile technology to strengthen the HIV sector. This product previously fell under the banner of Cellphones for HIV, and was known as Mobilisr.

In South Africa there are approximately 36 million active cellphone users, and around 80% of all youth and adults have a cellphone. While there are many companies making money from ringtones and picture downloads, there are very few socially relevant or developmental services. This project will explore how a range of cellphone services can provide information and communication services that are useful to people infected or affected by HIV.

Communicate can be used in the many areas of HIV and Health:

  • Mass messaging for prevention;
  • Mass information for positive living;
  • Linking patients and clinics;
  • Peer-peer support and counselling;
  • Building organisational capacity of HIV-related organisations;
  • Monitoring and evaluation.

Hypotheses for Cellphones and HIV prevention

Cellphone messaging can potentially promote the changing of attitudes e.g. regular SMS from famous HIV+ people talking against stigma, or reminding people feel that AIDS is treatable and HIV preventable.

There is definitely the potential to use the cellphone in increasing dialogue – breaking the silence, particularly through peer-to-peer support groups, as in MXIT.

We hypothesise a link to promoting uptake of services (e,g. getting condoms, attending VCT, going to prevention events). Specifically, a possible increase in Prevention of Mother-To-Child infection for pregnant young women promoting testing and access to PMTC Treatment.

Adherence messaging is also a target focus of this project. Here, a simple reminder to take antiretroviral drugs at the prescribed times prevent people from forgetting to take drugs and prevent them from becoming compromised. Messaging infected people to remind them of clinic appointments is another focus area, and can potentially lead to less infected people falling out of clinic-based activities and sessions.

Another hypothesis is that messaging and cellphone information service have an effect in increasing empowerment allowing people to chose risk-reducing behaviour. This is not about changing what people want to do, but supporting people to do what they actually want to do when under social pressure. An example would be a teenage girl pressured by a boyfriend to have sex, where most of her friends in the group say she should or she will ‘lose him’, but through an SMS link to the National AIDS Helpline or a MXIT ‘Born free’ chatroom she is encouraged to resist the pressure.