As the war against HIV and AIDS rages in the sub Saharan Africa, the Dutch organization Humana People to People has thrown into the battle field a new innovation aimed at combating the scourge through mobile SMSs. Through its Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) international non governmental organization, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has partnered with Humana Netherlands and a private mobile phone company One Sixty to launch an aggressive onslaught on the virus that causes AIDS in the southern African country, Malawi. Corps Commander – as they are called- of the Malawian DAPP force, Florence Longwe says the SMS HIV offensive is integrated in the DAPP Total Control against the Epidemic (TCE) HIV and AIDS program which collects, store and analyse HIV data in order to institute appropriate and effective interventions. “The program collects HIV information gaps which are then used to unleash more focused information and message dissemination to specific target groups in effective campaigns which allows people to take control of HIV and AIDS in their lives,” says Longwe.
She says the program empowers every individual in an area targeting 100, 000 people with HIV and AIDS knowledge, Testing and Counseling in order for them to take control of their lives. Using field patrols of groups of five that are supervised by Troop Commanders, the TCE goes on a door to door HIV and AIDS attack. “The entry point is the household and family unit using a one-on-one approach where individuals are given a chance to discuss, ask and deal with sexual matters that they would otherwise not talk about in groups,” says Longwe.
Thunga TCE Troop Commander, Andrew Juma says through the personal interactions they collect data which they feed into their mobile phone and transmit it to Special Forces at DAPPs computer data base in Blantyre where it is analysed for appropriate action. “Through these interactions more targeted campaigns have been enabled by the SMS program leading to 13 per cent increase in condom use, increased knowledge on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission and testing and counseling,” Juma explains. Longwe says the program has conducted 8, 890 household surveys which led to the transmission of over 50, 000 SMS data that was used to formulate targeted interventions for people in the tea growing district of Thyolo and Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial city. Currently the program has trained 100 Troop Commanders who are each supposed to reach out to 2, 000 people in a period of three years