The Situation/Problem: There are more young people today, and HIV/AIDS has affected more than half of the world's population that is under the age of 25 years. Uganda's young population is 52% of the population and this is the age that is most affected by HIV/AIDs. The high risk sexually active women account for 16% of the youth, while high risk sexually active men account for 36%. Related to these behavioral challenges are unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and cross-generational sex that are grossly exploitative, especially for the girl child. There is a high demand by young people to have full access to Sexual and Reproductive Health services and information to protect them.
Additionally, social norms and taboos related to gender, sexuality, and SRH issues create a culture of silence for young people in asking, obtaining information, discussing, and expressing their worries about SRH issues. This is particularly the case when it comes to communication with adults in the family or communities.
Many adolescents have limited agency and mobility, few possibilities to express themselves without judgment, and know few persons and places to seek information and support. The lack of a confidential and judgment-free environment is a barrier to young people to feel supported in expressing their concerns related to their lives and SRH issues and obtaining SRH information, education, counseling, STis/HIV testing, contraceptive services, learn skills among other products and services.
AskMe aims to use a mobile application to address young people's access to SRH products and services to ensure that adolescents and young people have access to adequate and accurate information and friendly health services, youth counseling, access to family planning and HIV/AIDS services, contraceptive services, prevention of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS and many more.
By doing this we aspire to Provide, promote and empower adolescents and young people 14-24 years of age with anonymous equal access to sexual and reproductive health education, products and services anytime and anywhere via downloadable online and offline android apps, social media platforms, website, toll-free calls and SMS. We have medical experts, partnering health facilities and counselors who are readily available 24/7 to assist users with the right information, products, and services regarding reproductive health and sexuality.
Additionally, the app has a service finder/clinic finder that enables users to search for the nearest health facility in their neighborhood for more information and services regarding sexual and reproductive health.
The User/Impact: A 15 year old adolescent girl accesses our toll-free emergency call line after having been raped by who she had believed to be her boyfriend. She is so terrified and fears to tell her family or even her friend in fear of being rejected for having a boyfriend in the first place and for not being a virgin anymore. She does not know what to do and is devastated. The AskMe counselor is listening to her in empathy and able to give her specific support steps such as going to the next pharmacy to get morning after pills, helping her to evaluate if she wants to see a doctor to possibly turn down an HIV infection and gives her the facts about legal steps she could take. AskMe does not tell her what to do, but gives and empowers her with the accurate and relevant information she needs to take her own decisions to overcome the challenges she is facing.
User Feedback: Using a purposive sampling method of data collection, we engaged 100 university adolescent students in an open discussion to gain valuable feedback on our idea and how SRH products and services could be extended to them but also incorporated feedback from OpenIDEO experts and the communities where we work. In this exercise we found out that access to smartphones is very high in schools and universities, but most SRH services consume a lot of data to access and sometimes users find it difficult to locate a health facility near them that could offer them a free/affordable service. That is why in addition to an online app, we will create an offline app that will require a user downloading it once and for all. Users will be able to navigate, search, access, and read diverse information on different SRH topics without the need for internet access. we will also emphasize the use of toll free hotline and SMS services that will not produce any costs to the users and they can even use it borrowing someone else's phone. We will expand the team answering questions with members speaking in the local languages in addition to English.
Secondly, We will include a clinic/service finder where users can be referred to/search for more information and/or services from the local health facilities near to them.