In addition to the decorating of Christmas trees, lighting of menorahs, and hanging of tinsel around the world, the beginning of December symbolizes another, very different occasion of global significance: HIV/AIDS. Each year, December 1st marks World AIDS Day — celebrated, so to speak, since its establishment in 1988. At the time, HIV-related deaths and related pandemic panic were on the rise; necessitating among governments and public health organizations alike sociocultural campaigns aimed at increasing HIV/AIDS awareness and decreasing the stigma associated with the virus, its testing, and its treatment. And such efforts have been widely successful; as of 2020 new HIV infections have been reduced by 52% and AIDS-related deaths by 64%, since their peaks.
Even as other pandemics continue to invade our daily lives, the scale of HIV alone is reason enough to take a moment to reflect. Take Africa, for example. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Africa “remains most severely affected, with nearly 1 in every 25 adults (3.6%) living with HIV and accounting for more than two-thirds of the [38 million people currently] living with HIV worldwide.” Moreover, misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding HIV/AIDS still run rampant; interfering with both HIV testing as well as adherence to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy, and thus contributing to HIV/AIDS mortality.
One such misconception — both historically mistaken as well as maliciously construed — is that HIV is an issue defined and confined by social marginalization; yet, in the highest prevalence settings of Sub-Saharan Africa, heterosexual sex ”is the leading transmission mechanism of HIV.” In fact, over 50% of people living with HIV today are women and girls, largely infected by a male sexual partner. And yet, in the same region, only about a third of all women and girls of childbearing age (15–49) use a contraceptive method of any kind — let alone barrier methods, which, along with male circumcision, are the only categorical methods scientifically proven to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV.
In acknowledgement of these trends and in an effort to increase its impact, last year Nivi Inc. — which has been empowering individuals with sexual and reproductive health information and health system navigation in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia since its founding in 2016 — published a library of interactive HIV/AIDS conversational content to inform and guide users of its health chatbot, askNivi. This new experience was made possible because FHI360 in Nigeria and MTV Staying Alive Foundation in India, working with public health officials, sought to increase HIV/AIDS knowledge and access to much-needed resources such as HIV test kits and services, HIV prevention interventions, and ARV therapy.
Nivi’s approach is to always better understand where the individual is along their health journey. For example, the content includes a chat-based version of an FHI360 HIV risk self-assessment, presented as a quick, highly engaging quiz that generates risk reduction recommendations based on self-reported HIV risk factors and behaviors. Simple, targeted innovations like this in users’ chat experience are available on the askNivi platform thanks to significant feature updates in engineering and product development in 2021 and 2022. The askNivi experience is more flexible, functional, and scalable than ever before.
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