Project Lead(s): Erin Stern
Rape is a major risk factor for HIV, although a dearth of research makes it impossible to quantify the links between rape and disproportionate levels of infection among women in countries with the highest HIV prevalence rates.
Understanding the barriers to reporting rape is necessary for prevention, but sexual violence research is severely restricted: fear and taboos reduce the pool of willing respondents; dependence on highly trained, culturally acceptable researchers makes studies lengthy and expensive; working through interpreters creates distance; rural and isolated communities are hard to reach; written surveys exclude illiterate respondents; and safe, reliable data storage is challenging.
This project developed a Computer Audio and Voice self-Interviewing Application (CAVIA), an original smartphone application that combines voice recording with existing audio computer-assisted self-interviewing technology.
The app provides users with a tool that dramatically reduces inhibitions to reporting rape, by permitting respondents to answer questions in seclusion, in any language, posed by impersonal, non-judgmental computers.
CAVIA was designed for adults over 18 years of age of either gender, without restrictions due to language, literacy, familiarity with computers or cell phones, or proximity to a central research office.
CAVIA was developed, programmed and refined in concert with Jembi eHealth Systems, a non-profit South African company specializing in the development of eHealth information systems.
The project tested CAVIA in two markedly different South African communities, through the Thoyoyandou Victim Empowerment Program (TVEP) in Thoyoyandou, Limpopo, and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
Study participants completed CAVIA self-interviews in private, anonymously expressing their personal perspectives and observations about the sexual violence affecting their communities.
Results confirmed that the app is an efficient and affordable solution, with the potential to revolutionize the way research about sexual violence is conducted, because it reduces the amount of time and skilled professionals normally required to conduct research.
CAVIA was a resounding success in the two communities in South Africa where it was tested and was rated as being easy to learn to use, and then to operate on their own, by 95% of participants surveyed.
Those polled rated the oral self-interviewing experience as a relaxed and non-intrusive one.
CAVIA greatly reduces the amount of time and the number of highly skilled professionals normally required to conduct research. It opens up research to non-readers, members of minority language groups, people unfamiliar with computers, and rural populations without electricity or access to the Internet, all of whom are severely unrepresented in studies of rape.
AIDS-Free World Canada intends to conduct another pilot of CAVIA, in order to apply lessons learned from this study.