However, stigma surrounding HIV in South Africa meant that respondents may have been unwilling to participate in a traditional interview. Even if they did, it was felt unlikely they would be open to direct questioning. We needed a different approach if we wanted to build a complete picture of life with HIV for our client.
To build up rapport, we began by asking a series of questions via WhatsApp in a private setting to make the respondents feel more comfortable before we conducted in-person interviews.The moderator posed questions over a number of days to capture their changing emotions in real-time at different time points. The multimedia functionality of WhatsApp allowed us to gain rich insights expressed through the respondents’ preferred medium, whether text, voice notes, pictures or videos, from the context of their home environment, and in an environment where they felt safe to express themselves openly.
The qualitative in-depth interviews included multiple projective and enabling exercises, designed to ensure respondent engagement and focus on making it easier for them to express their feelings. These exercises included asking people to imagine they were talking to a friend who had just been diagnosed with HIV, and describing what living with HIV is like. They were asked to select images that represented how they felt at key inflection points on their journey, in order to help them articulate their emotions.
By combining the data from the qualitative interviews and the WhatsApp tasks, we built up an in-depth picture of life with HIV in South Africa. Respondent-generated images and videos were included throughout the report to enable our client to experience this through their eyes.
As a result, we were able to identify specific knowledge gaps and information needs for each segment, giving our client a roadmap for optimising HIV care in South Africa in the context of their portfolio.