New app helps HIV-positive children navigate life

Read time 3min 10sec
Healthcare workers experienced a 62% increase in confidence and competence after using the KidzAlive Talk Tool App.
Healthcare workers experienced a 62% increase in confidence and competence after using the KidzAlive Talk Tool App.

Qualcomm Wireless Reach has partnered with non-profit organisations, Keep A Child Alive and Zo"e-Life, to launch a mobile health app that equips healthcare workers to provide age-appropriate HIV education to children.

Qualcomm Wireless Reach is the corporate social responsibility initiative of multinational telecommunications equipment manufacturer Qualcomm. It develops mobile technologies for social good, and to help drive human and economic progress in underserved areas.

The KidzAlive Talk Tool App, launched in Johannesburg yesterday, provides healthcare and community workers with the support they need to interact with children aged three to 11 about issues relating to HIV/AIDS and provides guidance on pre- and post-HIV test counselling.

An estimated three million children across the globe are HIV-positive and around 75% are based in Sub-Saharan Africa countries. The majority of these children are not on any treatment, notes Zo"e-Life.

Healthcare workers use the app to engage children in the animated journey of a frog named Sibusiso as he goes for HIV testing, learns his positive status and comes to understand the importance of adhering to his treatment.

"The KidzAlive Talk Tool App demonstrates a creative and effective way to use mobile technology to improve health services and involve communities in HIV prevention and treatment," says Antonio Ruiz-Gim'enez, Jr, executive chairman and CEO of Keep A Child Alive.

Keep a Child Alive, founded in 2003 by AIDS activist Leigh Blake and musician Alicia Keys, seeks to get life-saving medication to children diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has a long existing partnership with Durban-based Zo"e-Life, which creates intervention programmes around health and wellness for local children and their families.

While great strides have been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS globally, social and structural barriers are leaving children and adolescents behind, according to Keep A Child Alive.

The app has built-in prompts to assist healthcare workers in guiding children through their journey of HIV testing, learning their test results, overcoming stigma and learning about prevention and healthy living.

Available in English, isiZulu and seSotho, the app cannot be accessed via a mobile app store. Interested persons and organisations must participate in a screening and registration process by Zo"e-Life to ensure compliance with child safety and protection regulations.

"Qualifying organisations or individuals are required to purchase a user licence, which provides access to a Web link to download the app. The app can be used offline; however, connectivity is required for submitting the data collected during the health sessions with the child," notes Dr Stephanie Thomas, executive director at Zo"e-Life.

In a pilot study of the app, 33 healthcare workers at private and government healthcare facilities in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal trialled the app following in-depth training.

"After their training, healthcare workers experienced a 62% increase in confidence and competence in providing age-appropriate counselling and care for HIV-exposed and infected children. Primary caregivers participating in the pilot study were more willing to give consent for their children to receive HIV testing and counselling," explains Thomas.

The app is available at eight healthcare centres in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with plans to extend to other regions.

"At Qualcomm, we believe advanced mobile technologies have a great role to play in improving access to healthcare services, lowering costs and increasing efficiencies," says Elizabeth Migwalla, senior director of government affairs for Africa and the Middle East, Qualcomm International.

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