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Mobile technology versus HIV/AIDS

Less than 25% of South Africans have tested for HIV and know their status, and only 10% of those who qualify for anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment are currently receiving these life-saving drugs. These are some of the statistics that highlight the factors behind South Africa’s status as one of the world’s centres of the AIDS scourge. A new project aims to harness the power of the cellular phone to help treat HIV/ADIS and combat its spread.

Mobile operator MTN South Africa announced today that it had renewed its commitment to Project Masiluleke (Project M), which harnesses the power of mobile technology to help reverse the HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) crises in South Africa. Through cellphones, ‚ geographically and culturally appropriate messages‚ are being used to encourage people to learn their HIV status earlier, and to connect them to testing and treatment services. The messages are tagged to the Call Me messages that users can send for free to request that someone phone them back.

Less than 25% of South Africans have tested for HIV and know their status, and only 10% of those who qualify for anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment are currently receiving the drugs.

Eunice Maluleke, General Manager, MTN Foundation, says: ‚We are using the power of mobile technology to penetrate the communities we serve and offer life-saving, vital healthcare information to millions that need our help.

‚Together with our partners, we aim to help South Africans access information, get tested and stay on treatment. We are using our core product to eradicate the stigma about HIV AIDS and bring down these numbing statistics.‚

Pop!Tech Accelarator Director Leetha Filderman says: ‚Mobile phones are closing the information gap by delivering geographically and culturally appropriate messages that encourage people to learn their HIV status earlier: connect people to existing HIV and TB clinical services for testing and treatment: and increase people’s adherence to anti-retroviral regimens once in treatment.‚

A typical Call Me message with educational tag

As part of its commitment, MTN South Africa is offering up to 1 million ‚Please Call Me‚ messages a day to Project M, a cross-sector collaboration offering solutions to pressing global challenges.

Project M has two main phases right now. The first is the ‚Please Call Me‚ (PCM) stage: HIV AIDS messages are inserted in the unused space of PCM messages. The second phase is the implementation of a mobile technology called TxtAlert, which allows patients on ARVs to get automated SMS reminders of their scheduled clinic visits. Regular clinic appointments help patients commit to their medication regimens which avoids treatment lapses that contribute to drug-resistance and diseases progression.

In its use of reminders, the system is similar to Cell Life’s programme to assist people living with HIV/AIDS to stick to their treatment regimes, to provide information and counseling, to connect them to clinics, and to help build capacity among organisations working in this arena.

The Cell-Life logo

The Cell-Life project is backed by Vodacom.

Since Project M was launched in October last year:

Filderman concludes: ‚As a major undertaking with transformative potential, Project Masiluleke requires the efforts and dedications of a wide-ranging set of partners. Together we are committed to lending a helping hand and fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic.‚

About Project Masiluleke

Project Masiluleke is being incubated by the PopTech Accelerator, which brings together international cross-sector teams of companies, foundations, NGOs, funders, artists, and thought leaders to collaborate on outcomes none could achieve independently. The Project Masiluleke team includes South African-based foundations, NGOs, and corporations, corporate partners with tremendous global reach in the mobile technology space, industrial designers, and media and public relations partners. The in-kind value of intellectual property, technology services, and professional time donated by these partners runs well into the millions of dollars.

PopTech is a renowned ideas summit and social innovation network dedicated to accelerating the positive impact of world-changing people and ideas. The organization is known for its visionary PopTech conferences, engaging media productions, and the innovative social change programs that it fosters worldwide. The PopTech Accelerator facilitates interdisciplinary, world-changing projects ‚ such as Project Masiluleke ‚ that use new tools and embody new approaches to significant global challenges.

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