Facebook Messenger chatbot aims to prevent mother to child HIV transmission

The Praekelt Foundation has announced that the Department of Health’s MomConnect service will be making its way to Facebook as a Messenger bot.

MomConnect is an SMS and USSD service which provides mothers and others with essential information regarding pregnancy and HIV. The service was launched in 2014 and is used by 850 000 South Africans.

Praekelt Foundation’s choice to add a bot on Facebook should help to make the service even more accessible to South Africans.

“Our goal is to to be relevant with the latest technologies,” Praekelt general manager, Debbie Rogers says. “We wanted to move to data based access in various ways for a long time and we could have done a mobisite but we liked the engagement with users that MomConnect offers. A Messenger bot let’s us keep that level of engagement with users.”

The MomConnect bot will add a number of new messages that will be fed to the relevant users. Among these are a number of messages that aim to support mothers who are HIV positive.

“Mother to child transmission is a real problem. Many women only find out that they are HIV positive when they visit a clinic and they lack access to the resources they need to keep them, and their unborn child safe,” Rogers said in an interview with

In light of this MomConnect will now also feature a number of prevention of mother to child transmission messages.

The bot is currently being tested live on the MomConnect PMTCT Facebook page and you can test it out yourself by liking the page and sending a “Hi” to the bot.

“The MomConnect Messenger Bot will roll out to Facebook and in certain clinics next month. The new prevention of mother to child transmission will also be made available on the USSD and SMS portals,” Rogers added.

“The Department of Health’s forward thinking and innovation is the reason we can launch this service. It’s really impressive that the Ministry is so forward thinking and willing to help,” concluded Rogers.

The Praekelt Foundation has worked closely with Facebook in Africa for some time now, and has built several core apps for health services on the Internet Basics platform. The Foundation says that it plans to add a Messenger bot to its Hello Mama and Family Connect services in Nigeria and Uganda respectively.



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