Text messaging/Mobile

August 12, 2008


International AIDS Conference: New Media and the AIDS Community - Some Good News

Last week, we "twittered" Exit Disclaimer from the International AIDS Conference (IAC) Exit Disclaimer, and we planned to talk about that this week. We were struck, however, by our conversations on new media with IAC delegates and we decided to write about what we learned at the conference instead. (Stay tuned for more on Twitter soon!)

From the plenary Exit Disclaimer on the future of the global pandemic to AIDS.gov's conversations with a cross-section of the 23,000+ IAC delegates in Mexico City, the topic of new media kept popping up. In that plenary session, Dr. Peter Piot Exit Disclaimer, director of UNAIDS Exit Disclaimer (and one of the leading voices in developing HIV/AIDS policy worldwide), acknowledged the importance of new media in meeting the challenge of HIV/AIDS. Dr. Piot explicitly mentioned Facebook and text messaging as important tools in carrying messages about HIV/AIDS--but he was one of the few who did.

“It is time that prevention programs embrace Facebook, texting, all the communication means, the new information technology that young people are using. It is not by billboards that we are going to introduce social change and personal behavior change on a large scale.” Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director, UNAIDS

At our poster session on AIDS.gov, and in informal interviews throughout the weeklong conference, we asked people from all different sectors (government, community-based and faith-based organizations, the private sector, and academia) if, and how, they are using new media in response to HIV/AIDS. Their responses showed a common theme:

Everyone thinks using new media to offer HIV prevention, testing, and treatment messages is a great idea, but very few have made the leap to integrating new media consistently into their daily work or planning.
Photo of Miguel Gomez and Dr. Hazel Dean

AIDS.gov poster session: Miguel Gomez, Director of AIDS.gov, and Dr. Hazel Dean, Deputy Director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

For those who said they were working on new media initiatives, they recognized that work as a priority. Several organizations, including amfAR Exit Disclaimer and GMHC Exit Disclaimer, were planning rollouts or redesigns of their websites in the near future.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Exit Disclaimer was the major new media presence at the conference. KFF provided webcasts Exit Disclaimer for all of the major IAC sessions, as well as interviews with many of the most prominent policymakers and activists in the AIDS community.

There were plenty of bloggers at the conference. Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP) Exit Disclaimer sponsored AIDS2008.com Exit Disclaimer, an independent community resource for the 2008 IAC, which included blogs Exit Disclaimer from many conference attendees. In addition, a Google blog search Exit Disclaimer yields over 60,000 mentions of the IAC.

Despite these high-profile new media efforts, however, almost everyone we talked to stressed that the use of new media in response to HIV/AIDS is in its infancy. The overwhelming consensus of the delegates was that the AIDS community lags behind in using new media, and that we need to catch up and learn how to use new media tools quickly.

There was a lot of interest in new media from many of those on the front lines. The AIDS.gov team attended a fascinating session titled Reaching Millions--Youth, AIDS, and the Digital Age. The panelists were all young AIDS activists who are using the Internet and cell phones to reach and support young people at risk for, or living with, HIV/AIDS in some of the world’s most affected regions.

All of the interest generated by these sessions, and the enthusiastic response to our interviews, led us to believe that there is a need for a conference on AIDS and New Media. Stay tuned as we attempt to make it happen!

June 17, 2008


20 students. 6 universities. 8 short videos. 1 cause. National HIV Testing Day Personal Public Service Announcements

Photo of Dr. Kevin Fenton with a PPSA participant

Dr. Kevin Fenton, Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention , with a PPSA participant

To help get the word out about National HIV Testing Day (June 27), the CDC and the University of Georgia’s New Media Institute Exit Disclaimer collaborated on an innovative new media project. More than 20 students from six universities and five AIDS organizations hit the streets with video cameras this April to produce eight short video messages Exit Disclaimer encouraging young people to be tested for HIV.

To learn more about this project, we spoke with Dr. Scott Shamp Exit Disclaimer, a professor at the University of Georgia and the director of the New Media Institute Exit Disclaimer, and with our CDC colleague Jackie Rosenthal.

What are Personal PSAs?

Public service announcements Exit Disclaimer have become a mainstay in public health efforts. What differentiates personal PSAs from traditional ones, is that in addition to being user-generated, they are shared via cell phones and social network sites Exit Disclaimer, like YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook.

Why Personal PSAs?

Rosenthal stated, “We know that there are millions of young people who consume media differently today. They are more in tune with colleagues and the world via personal communication devices such as cell phones. We started to research the role of cell phones and other mobile media devices, and how these assets can play a part in enhancing people’s lives.”

Photo of Dr. Scott Shamp

Dr. Scott Shamp, University of Georgia's New Media Institute

Dr. Shamp continued, “There is a new generation of creative individuals who can create a lot of cool things that resonate with various target audiences with very little technology.” And a cell phone allows people to send these messages friend-to-friend, colleague-to-colleague.

Creating the PPSAs

Each PPSA took a different approach to communicate the same message - HIV testing is quick, simple, painless, and VERY important.

We asked Dr. Shamp to tell us about how the PPSAs were developed. He told us that, after spending one day learning about HIV/AIDS, testing and surveillance, the students were then put into small groups and tasked with coming up with ideas for their short videos. On the second day, an expert panel approved their concepts and the groups hit the pavement with inexpensive video cameras to turn their concepts into actual video footage. On the evening of the second day, they showed the final products to all the students and project partners. “It was really exciting,” said Dr. Shamp.

The PPSA team credits two major components for bringing this project together and executing it successfully: creativity and cooperation. This endeavor required a group of partners like CDC and Verizon Wireless. Dr. Shamp stated, “It also relied heavily on crazily brave individuals to take on the production, and students and faculty, whom we call intrepid innovators, to help us carry this out from inception to completion.”

Tune in!

In anticipation of National HIV Testing Day, the PPSAs will be available on CDC’s YouTube channel Exit Disclaimer and MySpace Page Exit Disclaimer. We also encourage you to embed the video(s) Exit Disclaimer on your Web site or blog in support and observance of National HIV Testing Day.

For more information, visit the Univerisity of Georgia’s New Media Institute website Exit Disclaimer.

March 04, 2008


Texting 4 Health (Part 2 of "R U Texting?")

Today's post is a follow-up to our initial post on text messaging (also known as "texting"). We're straying from our usual format, in order to share with you some highlights from last week's Texting4Health Exit Disclaimer Conference at Stanford University Exit Disclaimer.

Two members of the AIDS.gov team went to Texting4Health to learn from, and talk with, some of the country's leading experts in health, behavior change, and mobile technology, who are using texting in health. The conference brought together researchers, public health professionals, nonprofits, government, foundations, businesses, and more.

Bottom line: The AIDS.gov team learned A LOT! Below are four take-away messages we'll share with our colleagues. The key message we heard from the presentations, workshops, and one-on-one meetings was that HIV/AIDS programs can reap significant and cost-effective benefits from integrating text messaging into their work.

1. Cell phones and texting are everywhere, and they aren't going away: Richard Adler from the Institute for the Future Exit Disclaimer set the stage by talking about the growth of cell-phone use and the demographics of the folks using them. He said that by the end of 2008, more than one-half of the people in the world will have a cell phone. (That's almost 3.5 billion people!)

2. Texting can change health behaviors: Debbi Gillotti, from Healthphone Solutions Exit Disclaimer, talked about New Zealand's Stop Smoking with Mobile Phones program (STOMP) Exit Disclaimer, a smoking cessation intervention via text messaging. Tina Hoff and Kimberly Dasher from the Kaiser Family Foundation Exit Disclaimer shared how their HIV texting campaigns in the U.S. and the Caribbean use ZIP codes to link people to local HIV testing centers.

3. Your audience will tell you what they want and how they want it--just ask them! Deb Levine from ISIS Exit Disclaimer talked about her experiences using texting to reach low-income, urban youth with HIV and STD information and resources. She said focus groups and "taking it to the streets" were key to shaping the content and delivery methods of the ISIS campaign. In addition, Deb and many others at the conference also emphasized the importance of testing, changing, and retesting your campaign, based on feedback from the audience you are trying to reach.

4. There are more and more texting solutions that can help you launch and manage a texting campaign. Ken Banks from Kiwanja.net Exit Disclaimer (Frontline SMS, an open-source application), Eric Holmen from SmartReply Exit Disclaimer, Paul Meyer from Voxiva Exit Disclaimer, and Benjamin Stein from Mobile Commons Exit Disclaimer, talked about and demonstrated their products. Several presenters mentioned the importance of integrating other tools (such as hotlines and websites) into your texting campaign, depending on your content and the behavioral outcome you want to encourage. They also emphasized starting small. Their advice? Keep it simple while you are getting your feet wet. You can always expand your campaign down the road!

There are lots of ways you can use texting in the fight against HIV. You can send appointment reminders, provide support for medication adherence, help people locate testing locations, and link them to support networks. We encourage you to explore (and share with us!) how you might integrate texting into your work in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

If you are already using texting in your HIV prevention, testing, treatment, or research programs, please let us know. We can all learn from each others' experiences.

In closing, we want to thank the conference's organizer, B.J. Fogg Exit Disclaimer, for setting up such a fantastic lineup of speakers, a very well-organized program, and many great opportunities to network.

Stay tuned for next week's discussion of social networks!

February 05, 2008


R U Texting?

High school seniors can send hundreds of them in a day. The show American Idol Exit Disclaimerdepends on them. And staffers for presidential campaigns are using them to contact potential donors and voters.

"They" are text messages--and they are fast becoming a preferred form of communication for many Americans. During June 2007, Americans sent 28.8 billion text messages! Exit Disclaimer

Text messaging Exit Disclaimer is a way of sending information to and from cell phones and certain personal digital assistantsExit Disclaimer(PDAs). To send a message, you can type it directly into your cell phone, using the number/letter keys on the keypad. Text messages are easy to send, and we are seeing growing use by those of all ages.

For World AIDS Day, the AIDS.gov team and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started working with the Kaiser Family Foundation Exit Disclaimer to promote text messaging for HIV testing. Mobile phone users can send a text message with their zip code to “KNOWIT” (566948). Within seconds, they receive a text message with information on nearby HIV testing sites.

And text messaging is being used in all kinds of new and interesting ways:

  • In California, a city health department Exit Disclaimer allows clients to text questions about HIV/AIDS.
  • In Australia, texting helps AIDS patients adhere to complicated drug regimens.

We are often asked, "How can HIV/AIDS programs benefit from text messaging?" To help us explain this key new media tool, we spoke with Erin Dixon, Acting Senior Advisor for Partnerships at the CDC's National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, and Tina Hoff, Vice President and Director of Entertainment Media Partnerships Exit Disclaimer at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

"Text messaging is critical to public health initiatives because it allows us to reach audiences in a way they prefer," explained Erin, "Young people in particular seem to prefer this technology, and—by getting on board with it—we extend our reach and our ability to get information to those who need it."

Tina agreed, "If you ignore new media tools, you miss out on an opportunity to reach millions of people who rely on these tools as a form of communication. Incorporating these tools is just part of a good media plan."

  • Personal—each phone is connected to a particular person
  • Ubiquitous—people often carry them at all times
  • Connected—they allow you to connect to peers, caregivers, and other resources for support and information

Erin and Tina acknowledge that there are also some challenges associated with text messaging. "There are character limits for messages, and there are costs associated with texting," Tina says. "We have to be conscious of that--but texting is a real opportunity to connect with our audience and share information."

How has text messaging reached a person living with, or at risk for, HIV/AIDS?
We tested the KNOWIT campaign with MTV, which did on-air promotion," Tina told us. "That month, we got close to 15,000 text messages. People got the information when and where they needed it, and they could follow up and call an HIV center right away." And in Connecticut, the local health department aired PSAs on local radio stations that brought in over a 100 inquiries for HIV testing sites.

In November 2007, five students from the New Media Institute Exit Disclaimer at the University of Georgia teamed up with students and faculty from four universities, three AIDS organizations, and Verizon Communications to develop AIDS Personal Public Service AnnouncementsExit Disclaimer. The project is testing a new mobile production model to create messages that can be sent to young people’s cell phones encouraging them to be tested for HIV.

How can you start your own text messaging campaign?
If you want to start your own text messaging campaign, Tina says, "I would certainly talk to people who are using text messaging. It will open up ideas about how you can apply text messaging to public health issues. We’re trying to tap into text messaging and how people are using it in their personal lives. If you're putting out information that young people want, there seems to be a real receptiveness to that format."

There are many ways to conduct a text messaging campaign. Several texting service companies our colleagues have worked with include:

In a few weeks, the AIDS.gov team will be participating in and reporting from Texting4HealthExit Disclaimer, a conference that will focus entirely on text messaging and health, which is sponsored by BJ Fogg's Exit Disclaimer Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab Exit Disclaimerand the CDC. One of the key speakers at the conference will be Richard Adler Exit Disclaimerfrom the Institute for the Future Exit Disclaimer and the author of the important report, Health Care Unplugged: The Evolving Role of Wireless Technology.Exit Disclaimer

Other public health examples using text messaging include:

We hope you will explore ways to adopt this new media tool to fight HIV/AIDS --  either by promoting existing campaigns or creating your own. Let us know what you learn, and share your experiences in the comments below.

Stay tuned for next week's discussion of wikis!

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