New public-private partnership launched to tackle TB, HIV and STIs

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Ministry of Health of Samoa and Digicel are partnering through a public-private partnership to launch a new mass media campaign to address tuberculosis (TB), HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI

The campaign, which is being run across four countries in the Pacific (Nauru, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu), is kicking off this week in Samoa. It will run until the end of 2017, with the initial focus being on TB to coincide with World TB Day on 24 March.

“Public health must be creative. We know one of the best ways to reach people is through their cellphones,” said Leausa Toleafoa Dr. Take Naseri, Director General of the Ministry of Health.

It is estimated that 110,000 people will be reached in Samoa through Digicel’s network, which now has 98.5% population coverage. Text messages will be delivered to subscribers and direct them to a webpage with more information on prevention and where to go for testing, treatment, care and support services.

In order to market the campaign effectively, the messages are being delivered in both local and English languages. In Samoa, a tailored slogan is being used: “T3: Talk It, Test It, Treat It”. This slogan refers to the need to: 1) Talk about these issues as a community and promote awareness; 2) Get tested for free at all National Health Service facilities to improve screening rates and surveillance; and 3) Get treated to reduce transmission and ensure a healthy life.

The national partners in Samoa are the Ministry of Health, the National Health Service STI/HIV/TB Clinic and the Samoa Family Health Association.

“At UNDP, we seek to help countries to build resilient health systems and to address the social, cultural and economic determinants of health,” said Lizbeth Cullity, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Samoa. “Too often it is the most vulnerable people in society who end up being most affected by poor health. Providing prevention, treatment, care and support for TB, HIV and STIs, will contribute to the overall achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals – particularly Goal 3 on ensuring good health and well-being for all.”

The campaign also features a key component of data collection through smartphone-based surveys to gauge the levels of knowledge on TB, HIV and STIs. The data will be used to ensure that future programming by national health providers and development partners is more effective and reaches those in society who are most vulnerable.  

“Given the wide reach, efficiency and effectiveness of mobile solutions, our team is able to push out important information to the public as well as gather useful data through mobile surveys,” said Morika Hunter, Head of Digicel’s Trend Media Pacific Hub. “By teaming up with Ministries of Health and development partners such as UNDP we are contributing to concrete, positive impacts on public health in the region.”

The campaign is supported by UNDP and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria through the Multi-Country Western Pacific Integrated HIV/TB Programme.