Skip to main content

Using digital in HIV programming

  • Digital technology, such as mobile phones and software applications (apps), can make HIV services easier to use and more efficient. 

  • To be successful, the people who the digital intervention is aimed at should be involved in designing and testing it. 

  • Unequal access to technology means not everyone can benefit from digital HIV initiatives. Addressing this, and issues like confidentiality, are important. 

Digital technology opens up a whole range of possibilities for the HIV response.  

Using things like mobile phones, social media, apps and websites can be very useful for providing information and services, collecting data to inform programming, conducting research and supporting advocacy. Its benefits include:  

Person-centred:  

Digital technology can make it easier for people to use HIV prevention, testing and treatment services in ways that fit into their lives. 

Privacy and anonymity 

Some digital interventions can be used anonymously. This can be appeal to people who experience stigma, discrimination and criminalisation. 

Efficiency 

Technology can make HIV services more connected and efficient. This can improve the experience of people with HIV who need to be on treatment throughout their life. 

But access to technology is unequal. This means that people in some parts of the world and from certain groups are unable to benefit. Addressing these limitations, and other issues such as privacy and security, is important. 

What should be involved?

​​​​​​​User-led

The people who the digital intervention is intended for should help design and test it. Users should be trained and/or given clear instructions on how to use the intervention, and on-going support should be provided if needed.  

​​​​​​​The right platform

People are more likely to use digital HIV interventions if they are available via technology they are already comfortable using. For example, using a gay dating app to provide information on HIV testing services to men who have sex with men. 

Getting the content right

Information needs to be provided to people in the language and format they find easy to understand. All content should be appropriate for the intended audience. This is why it is so important to involve users at design stage.

Avoiding financial and technological barriers

Creating an intervention that can be used with the technology available to your target audience is important. Digital interventions should research what hardware is available (for example types of mobile phones) as well as any limitations in existing infrastructure (for example people living in rural communities may not have good mobile internet coverage). Financial barriers such as the cost of data should also be considered.

Avoiding potential legal and ethical issues

It is important to ensure that the way data is collected protects people’s privacy and right to confidentiality. These issues need to be thought through while the intervention is being developed.  

Join the conversation

Share this page

  • Last updated: 11 March 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
Did you find this page useful?
See what data we collect and why