Recognizing the potential of ICT in fighting HIV/AIDS

Information and communication technology interventions can strengthen the quality and co-ordination of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment programmes.

If taken on board, information and communication technology (ICT) can offer organisations, communities and people living with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa ‑ where the disease is the greatest development challenge ‑ opportunities to intensify their efforts in mitigating the pandemic. 

If successfully implemented, ICT can play a vital role in documenting and sharing experiences, enhancing networking, improving HIV and AIDS knowledge management, and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of HIV and AIDS programmes and health care service.

For countries like Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Namibia ‑ which are among the most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic ‑ it is important for health authorities to consider the use of ICT in the fight against this plague.

Services such as Internet that is easily accessible on mobile phones can certainly go a long way in making sure that rural populations do not lag behind in terms of information access.  

If communities have access to information about HIV/AIDS, it helps them make informed decisions. 

Although accessing HIV/AIDS information through written materials like books and brochures or visiting clinics plays a pivotal role in the fight against the scourge, I am certain that making Internet available to the majority of the population makes it easier and cheaper to disseminate information. 

In Namibia, for instance, where some remote areas still lag behind in terms of HIV/AIDS information access ‑ information technology (IT) can provide a unique opportunity for easy access to the much-needed information. 

Tele-health and online medical interaction should take a new dimension in Namibia.

The use of IT can further complement public education campaigns designed to reach out to faraway communities. 

Communication technologies such as e-mails, CD-ROMs, list-serves, and World Wide Web, that link HIV/AIDS around the world today, hold greater promise as a key to reaching out to communities and especially the youth who typically embrace the use of IT for entertainment, learning and communication.

Currently, there is a lot of information available and data from all over the world through the internet about HIV/AIDS. 

Conferences, workshops, seminars and trainings on HIV/AIDS are mainly announced through the different Internet networks.

There are also social networks for young people to interact and share views as well as fears about the virus. 

All this wide dissemination of knowledge about HIV/AIDS is a step towards raising awareness among communities and giving the youth a voice to raise their views and opinions

In Kenya, for example, there is an organisation called One World that has launched a service using text messages whereby people can text questions regarding HIV/AIDS to a special number and receives instant replies to their queries. 

Daily tips are also sent to mobile subscribers detailing how to prevent and deal with HIV infection. Information is available in commonly used languages ‑ English and Kiswahili.

It is an undeniable fact that the cost of implementing ICT is a major barrier in most Sub-Saharan Africa countries but all what is needed is political will to overcome some of these barriers.  9All what is needed is to improve ICT infrastructures as well as enhancing capacity for individuals and organisations to use, operate and maintain information technology.

September 2013
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