People in Latin America can more easily access confidential, accurate and stigma-free information on self-management of abortion with pills thanks to an innovative AI chatbot developed by Ipas Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
Developed and launched in 2022, the “Sofia” virtual assistant embodies the persona of a young medical expert with a youth-friendly personality that uses clear and concise language anyone can understand. This traceless chatbot makes confidential and stigma-free assistance available to anyone with an internet connection—24 hours a day.
The range of topics and up-to-date abortion information Sofia provides was created based upon analysis of more than 3,000 queries made to Ipas LAC through different digital channels. The tool is updated regularly based on user feedback. Fifty percent of users are from Mexico, with large numbers of users also from Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina and the U.S.
Recognizing the power of digital communities to reach people where they already are, Ipas LAC’s strategy for promoting Sofia to interested audiences has focused on social media.
“We were able to leverage the high level of engagement on social networks in Latin American countries in a cost-effective way to reach the women and youth most likely to need this tool,” says Laura Andrade Campos, deputy director of communications for Ipas LAC. “We identify and prioritize the digital spaces where women and youth connect on these issues so that we can keep expanding the availability of this tool.”
‘I am here to support and guide you.’
When you open a chat with Sofia, she greets you with a friendly smile emoji and thanks you for reaching out.
“My name is Sofía, Ipas Mexico virtual assistant, and I am here to support and guide you,” she says in Spanish, and then offers a selection of abortion- and contraception-related topics to choose from to help you find the answers you need. Her tone is warm, informal and kind.
Feedback for the Sofia chatbot has been very positive. In the 28 focus group sessions Ipas LAC has conducted on the chatbot with 181 women of varying ages across Latin America, many noted that having accurate and evidence-based abortion information in one place is a valuable tool. Another popular feature with those surveyed is that users can choose to chat anonymously, assured that their conversations with Sofia are untracked.
Focus group participants also appreciated the neutral tone and simple language, as 90% understood the information given and found it “clear and concise.” In addition, 90% of the participants stated that the chatbot helped answer their questions about abortion and over 90% said they “would recommend it to a friend who needs information on safe abortion.”
“I prefer the information on the internet because someone finds it on paper if you’re careless, and they always judge you … With so much taboo, you don’t want something like that to be found. “
“I got more information than I expected: attached documents and explanatory videos. I liked finding research explained in a simple way. It felt like legitimate information.”
“It did not feel complex to use the platform. I liked that it was a bot because it made me feel less exposed, and it gave me the certainty that it will provide me with the exact information I need.”
- 49% of users have decided to use the tool anonymously 49% 49%