Cell-Life Update: Using Mobiles to Fight HIV/AIDS

Posted by CorinneRamey on Jul 31, 2008

In South Africa, mobile phones and HIV/AIDS are two pervsasive realities. Some 75% percent of  children and adults in the country have mobile phones, and according to the National HIV Survey, 10.8% of people over two years old are living with HIV. Almost 1,000 AIDS deaths occur every day. Cell-Life, an NGO based in Cape Town, aims to address this growing AIDS epidemic by using mobile phones.

Cell-Life's "Cellphones for HIV" project continues with two new pilot projects. In one pilot, Cell-Life will collaborate with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in the Western Cape to provide information to communicty trainers and the wider HIV community. In the second pilot, Cell-Life will work with Soul City, which uses television and radio dramas to discuss issues such as social norms, health, and HIV/AIDS. Specifically, Cell-Life will support the Soul Buddyz campaign, which targets 8-12 year olds.

The projects will use SMS for polls, infolines, and information messages and may use "Please call me" messages in order to keep costs low for the user. Cell-Life also plans to work with MXit, a popular mobile phone instant message system in South Africa.

Cell-Life has also worked with HIV/AIDS patients through its Aftercare system. From our report Wireless Technology for Social Change: Trends in NGO Mobile Use:

Cell-Life, a non-governmental organization based in Cape Town, South Africa, created its “Aftercare” program to work with the public health system and its health workers to provide home-based care for HIV/AIDS patients receiving ART treatments. The mobile technology-based Aftercare program supports the effective treatment of HIV/AIDS patients, and covers other aspects such as voluntary counseling. Each Aftercare worker is assigned to monitor 15 to 20 patients. The worker visits the patient in his or her home, and in a one- on-one session discusses the patient’s current treatment. Using their mobile phones for data capture, Aftercare workers record information about patient medical status, drug adherence, and other factors that may affect a patient’s ART therapy.

Aftercare workers then relay this information via text message to a central Cell-Life database. The data sent via text message reaches the Cell-Life server, where a care manager uses a web-based system to access and monitor the incoming patient information. The manager can also respond to Aftercare workers’ questions and provide supplemental information to improve patient care. The information collected not only facilitates individual patient care, but is also used to build a database of information on the severity and prevalence of the South African AI DS epidemic in these regions. The goals of the program include reduction of treatment errors, increased volume of patient data, and increased comfort for the patients as they receive HIV/AIDS care. designed with end users in mind. It functions in a participatory fashion, is simple and works consistently, and provides feedback to the counselors via text message when reports from the home health aides are received. The program has been able to keep costs relatively low by using data collection software that functions even on low-cost phones.

For more resources and case studies on mobiles in health, search for 'health' in the mDirectory. 

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