The Use of Cell Phones for Health Support by Women with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Community Informatics Case Study

Monday, 22 July 2013

Linda M. Dietrich, BSN, MSN, BC
School of Nursing, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI

Learning Objective 1: Review preliminary findings describing how Malawian women living with HIV use low cost cell phones within the sociocultural realities of their day to day lives.

Learning Objective 2: Review current literature on the use of cell phones for health in low resource settings

Purpose: Identify how cell phone usage is embedded in existing social practices for a cohort of women with HIV/AIDS in Blantyre, Malawi. 

 Methods: This study will use a community informatics based case study design. Community informatics (CI) is the “application of information and communication technology (ICT) to enable and empower community processes” (Gurstein, 2007 p. 11). The community of interest in this study is a support group for HIV positive women in Blantyre, Malawi in Sub-Saharan Africa. A post-colonial feminist perspective is utilized to enrich the CI perspective integrating the gendered, historical, and sociocultural context in which the use of ICT’s (cell phones) are used. In order to identify how women in the support group used cell phones within the context of their daily lives this study draws upon existing ethnographic data collected as part of a program evaluation.  In this case study I am interested in the daily sociocultural realities of the community in living with, using, and being affected by cell phone technology.  12 In Depth Interviews and 4 Focus Group Transcripts will be analyzed using narrative methods. A baseline survey (N=20) and one year follow-up survey(N=10) measuring health status, economic, and empowerment outcomes will provide context for the narrative cases.

Results:   Cell phones assist with income generation, social support, medication adherence, and bereavement support.

Conclusion: Initial results provide a perspective into the lives of women with HIV/AIDS living in Sub-Saharan Africa and how cell phones are used in the context of their daily lives for health and income generation.