South Africa has more HIV positive citizens than any country in the world. Yet although HIV testing and free anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment are widely available, few people know their status. The majority of HIV-infected patients in South Africa seek care only after they become symptomatic with end-stage AIDS, at a time when they require the greatest resources and have the least likelihood of survival.
frog worked with PopTech and several South African partners, including mobile network provider MTN, to launch a mobile campaign around HIV awareness. Since its launch in 2008, more than one billion messages have been sent encouraging participants to reach out for HIV counseling. Hailed as "The world’s largest field trial in mobile health technology" by The Economist, the initiative led over 250,000 individuals to request further information, tripling volume into the National Aids Helpline.
But what do you do with this new demand for information and services? The typical health clinic is understaffed and overburdened with diseases like TB, making it an unpleasant and unsafe environment for people to visit. We heard consistently that South Africans would much prefer to be able to test on their own.
Building on the success of the mobile campaign, frog and iTeach set out to create an HIV self-test kit to make HIV testing as comfortable and familiar as pregnancy testing in South Africa. By combining mobile support with off-the-shelf diagnostics, the test will offer a private, comfortable way for individuals to learn their status and connect with HIV counselors for care and advice. To develop a field-ready prototype, frog worked with iTeach to evolve an out of box experience and packaging design that would be simple and effective. More than three years in development, the self-test kit has been through hundreds of iterations to ensure a high degree of usability for semi-literate and illiterate participants in urban and rural settings.
A full pilot of the self-test kit is in development along with a path to commercial rollout.