2 December 2008
Local organisations involved in the fight against HIV/Aids have teamed up with several leading companies to launch Project Masiluleke, in which HIV/Aids-related messages are attached to “please-call-me” requests sent on South Africa’s cellular networks.
The project aims to close the healthcare information gap by delivering geographically and culturally appropriate messages that encourage South Africans to access HIV testing, and to know their status.
According to the Praekelt Foundation, one of the project’s sponsors, inadequate public communication programmes, together with the social stigma associated with HIV/Aids, means that less than an estimated five percent of South Africans have been tested.
“In this context, mobile phones hold tremendous untapped promise as a tool for public engagement around HIV,” the foundation says on its website.
Including the pilot that started earlier, the project aims to add HIV/Aids-related messages to about one million please-call-me messages per day for a whole year, from 1 October 2008 through to 30 September 2009.
The please-call-me is a very popular means of communication in South Africa, and is a specialised version of the short message service (SMS) that allows the sender to request that the recipient of the message call them back. Depending on the network, the subscriber can send several please-call-me requests each day.
“Approximately 30-million such messages are being sent per day across the three major mobile networks,” said the Praekelt Foundation. “For this campaign, Project Masiluleke inserts HIV/Aids messaging at the bottom on an existing please-call-me sent from one mobile user to another.”
Subscribers will then receive please-call-me requests featuring a variety of messages in several official languages, for example: “Constantly sick and worried that you might be HIV positive? Please call the Aids Helpline 08000 12322”.
Upon calling the helpline, recipients of the please-call-me will have access to trained counsellors who can provide accurate information and referral for HIV testing, treatment and care.
Project Masiluleke partners include the Praekelt Foundation, MTN, frog design, Nokia Siemens Networks, iTeach and the National Geographic Society.
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