London researcher in running for grant in fight against HIV
Who would have thought cellphones hold the answer to stopping the spread of HIV and AIDS?
Femida Gwadry-Sridhar did, and she’s taking the first steps to making the idea a reality.
Gwadry-Sridhar, director of I-THINK Research at London’s Lawson Health Research Institute, is in the running for a research grant that would create an SMS-based social network linking Ugandans with resources to ward off HIV and AIDS. The money would also create a mobile application designed to teach people in the South African country about the importance of things such as medication.
Ugandans already have access to mobile messaging and most depend on cellphones as their primary source of communication, Gwadry-Sridhar said. So, using messaging to connect people within and across villages is a logical approach to a problem that isn’t too far-fetched from one in many Canadian families.
Just like people need support at home when battling heart disease or obesity, Ugandans fighting HIV and AIDS need help from each other. Building a social network, Gwadry-Sridhar said, would help link people with one another and improve communication.
“There are people who walk seven miles to the place where they get their medication, and when they get there, no one is there,” she said, explaining one way the social network could help connect.
The network also would allow Ugandans to share information with researchers about barriers to treatment and other issues that are going unaddressed.
Gwadry-Sridhar said she will partner with the Salama Shield Foundation, a nonprofit already working in Africa. Researchers need about $100,000 to get the project off the ground.
Stopping the spread of HIV and AIDS in Uganda has a global significance, Gwadry-Sridhar said. “There are a lot of raw resources and products that come from countries like Uganda, like coffee and cotton,” she said. “We … don’t realize how we suffer by not supporting them.”