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At the 9th South African Aids Conference in June this year, Deputy President David Mabuza Mabuza noted that to make serious headway in SA’s comprehensive HIV response, we need to prevent new infections of the virus. ‘We must innovate and use technology at all levels to bring about sustainable change in our responses to HIV and Aids,’ he said.
According to research done by the University of Cape Town, there are approximately 7.4 million South Africans who are HIV positive, and it is estimated that there are around 250,000 new infections annually. The number of people living with HIV who are on treatment is 4.9 million. Government plans to get another two million people on ARVs by December 2020.
Here are some examples of how innovation and technology are already being used to combat the scourge of HIV and Aids.
Social media and mobile technologies can effect social change. Young Africa Live is a mobile social community platform developed for youth to post comments and generate discussions around sexual health and HIV/Aids. The platform has reached 32 million page views and generated over a million comments.
Limited access to HIV testing prevents high-risk HIV-negative individuals from accessing effective prevention services such as voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). The Ithaka mobile platform assists patients through testing, results reporting and linkage to care while integrating the values of autonomy, privacy and choice into the entire experience. This digitally assisted HIV self-test is offered in health facility waiting areas. It’s available on tablets in three languages – English, Zulu and Sotho – and guides testers through self-testing and encourages them to seek services.
In 2015, Right to Care started developing systems that combined data from the Department of Health, Department of Home Affairs, Statistics South Africa and local municipalities to create location-driven systems that allow it to drill down into the demographics of areas with high rates of HIV/Aids.
Geographic Information Systems (or participatory mapping) enables communities to share insights about social and cultural habits and customs in the areas where they live and work. Research teams then use this knowledge to unpack what is driving HIV transmission in those areas. This information then informs localised HIV programme strategies.
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