July 20, 2016

Digital innovation for an HIV-Free future

Written by Alice Lin Fabiano, Director, Johnson & Johnson Worldwide Corporate Contributions


In thinking of the many ways in which the world is different since the last International AIDS Conference was held in Durban just 16 years ago, in addition to improved funding for HIV and the reduction of HIV infections, the growth of mobile phone use and internet access has to be considered.

In 2000, the world population was just over 6 billion, and more than 500 million people had access to a mobile phone. There were only about 350 million internet users in the entire world.

Today, there are 7 billion people in the world, and mobile phone usage has grown so much that there are now more phones than people. Tech is part of most people’s lives, and the way people, especially young people, interact with their cellphones, is allowing for faster access to to health information. This is particularly true for the innovative ways cell phones are being used to keep HIV-positive people healthy.

Take MomConnect, a new initiative by the South African Department of Health, in partnership with Johnson & Johnson, BabyCenter, and many implementing partners, to identify expectant moms and connect them to the health system for regular antenatal visits. Launched in 2014, it’s the first national digital health registry in the world. Just two years later, more than 800,000 women have registered and receive the vital information they need. MomConnect is also working to ensure HIV-positive pregnant women get the unique support they need to give birth to HIV-free babies and for mothers to stay healthy.

There are other commendable ways in which the South African government has worked with partners to champion innovative uses of mobile technology. For example, NurseConnect provides messages to support nurses who register and counsel pregnant moms in South Africa.  And mothers2mothers, a partner of Johnson & Johnson for more than 10 years, is working with the DOH in South Africa on a mobile-phone based electronic client diary to help health workers follow up with HIV-positive pregnant women, especially adolescents who need extra encouragement.

Healthy women are the cornerstone of a healthy future for all, and today, digital innovation will help us achieve our shared vision of an HIV-free world. At Johnson & Johnson, we are honored to be one of the many companies working with the public sector in South Africa and all over the world to foster innovation. Every life improved together equals a new level of important progress and will put us one step closer to #EndHIVForHer.