|dc.description.abstract||In environments where diseases such as HIV and AIDS are often taboo, successful awareness and educational interventions must address peoples’ privacy and confidentiality concerns. The ubiquity and low cost of Text Message Services (SMS) hold the potential to effectively deliver HIV and AIDS awareness and education by communicating with people in an accessible and engaging manner that both respects their privacy and gives them the tools to make informed choices.
This study presents an evaluation of an incentive-based SMS quiz approach designed to improve awareness of HIV and AIDS in Mbarara District, Western Uganda. The goal of deploying HIV and AIDS related quizzes to the target population is to increase people’s awareness and knowledge about the disease, to promote their healthy behaviour and to encourage them to know their health status and seek treatment if necessary.
This study employs the domestication of media and technology as a theoretical framework to understand how Text to Change deployed SMS quizzes to improve HIV and AIDS awareness in the selected area of study. Data was collected mainly through in-depth-interviews and observation. The study sought to provide an in-depth analysis of the project which could be linked to theoretical assumptions that explain how mobile-based technologies can be used in HIV and AIDS education and awareness. The paper thus did not aim at generalizing findings but sought to provide illumination, understanding and extrapolation of the findings to similar situations.
This qualitative study suggests that text messaging may be a very useful and culturally-relevant platform to support HIV and AIDS education today. In developing countries like Uganda, text messaging have proven effective in targeting hard-to-reach populations especially those in rural areas where the absence of clinics, lack of healthcare workers and limited access to health-related information often prevent people from making informed decisions about their health. While other communication media such as radio, television, voice-based information hotlines and interactive websites can be employed in the service of education about HIV and AIDS issues, SMS stands out as having several advantages over each of these: cost-effectiveness, scalability, convenience, broad reach and widespread popularity in low-income countries.
This study however notes that text messaging has a huge disadvantage of being only able to allow only 160 characters. Secondly, most keypads do not support local languages such that, the SMS service requires users to type and read responses only in English hence may be a constraint to the target users. Additionally, poor quality of mobile phone services sometimes makes their use frustrating. On occasions, the service providers may offer no service at all, or very poor reception for days. Additionally, text messaging has become more popular among younger generations compared to other groups, a factor that may limit its scope and scalability. Another a potential drawback to the use of text message-based educational interventions is the marginalization of certain populations such as those that are illiterate or do not have access to mobile phones. However, some of these limitations may be reduced as mobile technology advances. For example, innovations exist that provide voice response systems and images instead of text for those with limited literacy.
This study established that there were no clear differences between intervention outcomes delivered by the SMS quiz and the existing HIV and AIDS awareness mechanisms. Moreover, the respondents still preferred the traditional channels of communication to access HIV and AIDS related information. In light of this, organizers of the SMS quiz note that in addition to providing the HIV and AIDS information to the target audience in a relatively cheaper, convenient, private and interactive manner, another issue to explore is whether target populations are prompted to take action such as to seek voluntary counseling and testing upon receiving the quizzes.
This study suggests that text messaging should not be considered a stand-alone model for delivering HIV and AIDS education but rather as a tool by which several awareness techniques can be administered. Further, if text message intervention studies are built on evidence and theory, the potential impact of these interventions may yield better outcomes.||eng