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Pop!Tech ’08: Project Masiluleke Pop!Tech ’08: Project Masiluleke

Pop!Tech ’08: Project Masiluleke

by Andrew Price
October 26, 2008

People talk about South Africa as one of the 21st century's up-and-coming global powers, but it's still home to five million people infected with HIV. The public health care system is completely overwhelmed and misinformation is rife (one billboard campaign from South Africa encourages people who've had unprotected sex to just take a shower).Pop!Tech has cultivated one helpful effort called Project Masiluleke.The first component of the "Project M" idea is to append little snippets of health information (like an AIDS info hotline number or a reminder about a clinic appointment) to short text messages that South Africans are already sending and recieving. In a test, these little text "footers" tripled the number of calls into an AIDS hotline.

The second part of Project M is to produce and distribute simple, user-friendly, home HIV tests (designed by frog). With nurses and doctors in such short supply, home testing is the only way to provide tests on a meaningful scale. A home kit also allows people to test themselves without facing the stubborn stigma that surrounds AIDS in South Africa. Here's what the test kit looks like.

The text message component is being tested with the help of MTN, South Africa's biggest mobile provider. The kits have been designed but it looks like production and distribution hasn't been quite worked out yet. Nevertheless, Project M does seem to address a lot of the challenges that have made AIDS such an intractable problem in South Africa.More about Project M here. There's a video here.
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