PS Kenya, in partnership with Population Services International, is committed to improving the lives of Kenyans by providing affordable and high-quality life-saving health commodities and information via social franchising, social marketing, and social behavior change communication.
In the year 2021, PSI and PS Kenya embarked on a 15-month pilot project in Nairobi and Kisumu Counties aimed at boosting access to and use of HIV self-testing kits among sexually active females and males aged 18-35 years and men above 35 years. According to the 2012 Kenya AIDS Indicator Survey, the national HIV prevalence among adults, defined as those between the ages of 15 to 64 years, was 5.6 percent. As of 2020, Kenya had the world’s fifth-largest population of HIV-positive people, and the virus remains a prominent cause of adult morbidity and mortality.
The SHIPs (Strengthening HIV Self-Testing in the Private Sector) project is in the process of developing a WhatsApp chatbot that will be used by individuals who are over 18 years. The chatbot is aimed at providing clients with HIV self-testing information but in no way acts as a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
The SHIPs team conducted a focus group discussion in Nairobi and Kisumu counties to test the desirability, sustainability, and cultural relevance of the newly developed chatbot. In participation were 33 sexually active males and females, 14 of whom were in Nairobi and 19 in Kisumu. The team was also joined by four pharmacists and two county health representatives.
On engaging the chatbot, an individual will be guided through a comprehensive set of questions containing information about HIV self-testing. The chatbot provides you with options such as:
- Risk assessment: walks you through the likelihood of your sexual activity putting you at risk. After that, it will provide you with a list of options on how to keep your risk perception low.
- Use my test kit: provides you with instructions on how to use your preferred test kit. The instructions can come in either video, picture, or text form.
- Find a kit: provides you with the nearest physical/online pharmacy or vending machine in Nairobi/Kisumu in which you can purchase a WHO prequalified testing kit.
- Self-report: provides you with the ability to share your results in case they turn out positive, in order to get further instructions, e.g., the nearest facility to go get your confirmatory test, or where you can start your treatment.
- Help: provides you with a list of national hotlines that you can call in case you need someone to talk to. They include numbers you can call in case of a suicide emergency or gender-based violence.
- FAQs provide you with more detailed information about your preferred HIV self-testing kit.
The youth in attendance shared that the chatbot features would be very effective in ensuring that they constantly keep up with their HIV status. They lauded PS Kenya’s efforts in having their best interests at heart and taking the community one step closer to achieving improved self-care in healthcare.