With Love & Light

When we sat down to plan how we were going to go about creating a digital HIV syllabus, we knew that we needed to have the our audience at the heart of the experience. HIV education and messaging has predominantly been dominated by health messaging made by people who understand the disease but without consideration of what is already understood (and misunderstood) about it.

For HIV Engage we embark on a 6 month long user design process (Phase 1). First we unpacked with subject matter experts, what health information was most crucial at what time in a patients HIV journey. We mapped this out using user journeys and engagement pathways, unpacking where information was related and how it was understood.

Next we engaged with users all of South Africa. We did workshop in 4 different provinces with HIV counsellors, patient adherence groups, HIV nurses and public sector healthcare workers. The foundation of all these workshops was to “Empathetic Listening” we didn’t want to solution, we didn’t ask yes or no questions. We gave the participants an opportunity to be heard. To voice their challenges, their daily struggles. To tell us stories that made us laugh and cry and really allowed us to understand their perspectives.

I feel very blessed to have had that opportunity, to be given those insights in such an open manner really gave us the information and empathy we needed to create the content.

Phase 2 was development and production. We created 8 video scrips for different phases of the journey, these were accompanied by posters and flyers – print material – that would could be left in public health facilities. The videos were stories of 5 different characters. These characters represented all of South Africa. They each told a story as they went through the HIV journey and their lessons became the way we educated the audience. These were not perfect characters, they made mistakes. Sometimes they got lucky and sometimes things didn’t work out for them but always the stories ended with hope and empowerment. Showing patients a way to take control and ownership of their help.

All these scripts were checked and vetted by subject matter experts and endorsed by the national department of health before we went into production to ensure that the patients watching it would be able to trust the information.

The content was designed to be have a voice of narration that was in the first person for English, with a variety of voice casts and then in the 3rd person for translated languages, which allowed us to have one voice over per a language translation. This drastically reduced the cost and allowed us to have HIV Engage easily translatable. It is now available in 6 languages.

In the final phase to take the video syllabus back into the field and see the reactions from the various stakeholders. We tried to reconnect to the same user groups that gave us the opportunity to engage with them in the first phase and show them the fruit of their labour. The responses were almost all positive. Something I really appreciated was that our choice to use a variety of demographics was whole hearted supported. People related to the stories, the similarities of situation and saw beyond the details of the specific race and culture. This really speaks to the importance of storytelling as a means of empathetic engagement.

It was a great privilege to work on this project with Aviro Health and the National Department of Health. I think we have created something that has longevity to it and will be useful for many people for many years to come. See the full syllabus here: https://hivengage.co.za/