The Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) is the second largest country in Africa in terms of surface and the 4th African country in terms of population with over 67 million inhabitants. Currently, the estimated number of people in DR Congo living with HIV is 440.000 (1.1%). The DR Congo government has shown growing interest in expanding HIV/Aids services and improving the quality of services but is often challenged with the necessary infrastructure and resources. On the other hand, people have increased access to mobile phones and in 2013 there were around 29 million mobile phone subscriptions covering 40% of the population. Mobile technology shortens distances and in countries as big as DR Congo mobile phones create enormous opportunities to improve communication in both urban as well as rural areas.
Why SMS to prevent HIV/Aids?
In this context Cordaid and TTC joined forces and implemented a massive awareness campaign on HIV/Aids with an interactive SMS quiz on the Vodacom network. The main purpose of this campaign was to assess and improve awareness and knowledge about HIV/Aids.
By the end of 2014, on World AIDS Day on December 1st, TTC and Cordaid were able to launch their interactive SMS campaign on HIV/Aids. Herewith, the partners managed to be one of the first organizations to show concrete results by effectively implementing a large scale mHealth project using SMS in DR Congo. The overall results of the campaign were positive and with this project we have been able to reach over 100.000 people with information on HIV/Aids. The campaign was promoted with a push invitation offered by Vodacom to 100.000 Vodacom clients and a radio campaign in 3 different languages in 3 regions, namely Kinshasa, North-Kivu and South-Kivu. At the end of the campaign, participants that replied to all questions were awarded with direct airtime topups to their credit.
This campaign is an excellent example of how mobile technology offers great potential to reach big audiences as part of an integrated national health communication strategy! Moreover, interactive SMS technology offers not only the possibility to disseminate information, it enables organizations to create real dialogue with their target group and collect information, opinions and test knowledge levels. This social marketing campaign was able to identify some interesting knowledge gaps and misunderstandings that Cordaid can use to improve its future communication content on HIV/Aids. This quiz contained 11 questions and 3 additional profiling questions (about age, gender and location). The most interesting outcomes were the following:
- Most participants were between 21-30 years old. This could mean that this age group has better access to mobile phones in comparison to other age groups or are more phone-literate. It could say something of the average age in DRC or at least the average age of people having a mobile phone.
- 77% of the participants was male. This not necessarily means that there are more men than women in the target areas, but that mobile phone ownership or usage is predominantly a male thing, but it could also mean that men are more prone to participate in such interactive quizzes or know better how to use a mobile phone.
- More than 1 of 3 of the respondents is unaware of the risk to get HIV having sexual interaction, but without penetration of the men. This could be the case for oral sex for example.
- 1 out of the 4 respondents believe they cannot get HIV from having oral sex
- Almost half of the respondents did not know that to be declared HIV positive one needs to conduct 3 series of tests, instead of only one when the first test has a negative result.
The results show that using interactive mobile campaigns generate great insights of the profile and knowledge levels of specific target groups and can perfectly be used for remote date collection and profiling in hard to reach areas across Africa.
TTC is an award winning social enterprise with offices in Amsterdam, Uganda and Bolivia. Since 2007, TTC sets up scalable mobile programs for partners in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Through innovative, user-driven, interactive, open source mobile platform for sending and receiving data and information via SMS text and voice messages, TTC facilitates the dialogue between (development) organizations and their target audiences. TTC has over 7 years of experience in using mobile phone based solutions for health, education, agriculture, monitoring and advocacy purposes, having worked with over 70 public and private sector partners. TTC believes that fundamental information should be accessible for everyone, including people living in the most remote areas. That’s why we use the mobile phone, the one tool that can create a personalized experience for every individual in every place with mobile coverage.
Cordaid is one of the largest development aid organizations in the Netherlands. Cordaid works closely with a network of 617 partner organizations in 38 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America as well as providing help to disadvantaged groups in the Netherlands itself. Cordaid believes that fragility demands a comprehensive approach. Building flourishing communities requires more than only healthcare or security and justice. It demands combined action and programs in different disciplines to deliver empowerment, security, opportunity, entrepreneurship and governance so that people can rebuild trust, resilience and self-reliance. Cordaid has a long track record in Healthcare, especially in sexual and reproductive health, and in Disaster Response. They are active in the more responsible and sustainable use of natural resources and in stimulating (investment in) rural and (post-) conflict entrepreneurship through dedicated investment funds.