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What's a QR Code?

May 17, 2011

You may have seen them around. On billboards. In magazines. On your cereal box. You may have wondered what you are supposed to do when you see one of these jumbled images. What do they mean? And how might we use them in our response to HIV?

"QR" (or "quick response") codes store information in the form of a two-dimensional square barcode. QR codes direct users to mobile websites or videos, store text or contact information, call a phone number, and/or send text messages and emails.

People interact with QR codes by scanning the barcode with their mobile phone camera. A QR reader application is needed to detect the QR code. You can download a QR reader application to your smartphone through a mobile application store, like Apple's App Store. It is possible to track when, where, and how many people are scanning QR codes with Google Analytics,, and other services.

QR Code

QR Codes in Response to HIV

Many commercial companies use QR codes as part of their marketing campaigns. At, we are exploring the use of QR codes on brochures, posters, postcards, or business cards to:

  • Link users to more detailed information about HIV-related topics.
  • Provide contact information about HIV services for people to quickly download.
  • Promote specific HIV events (e.g., National HIV Testing Day).

Mobile awareness

Examples From the Field's printed promotional materials, such as postcards and posters, feature QR codes that link to specific resources on's mobile site. Here is an example of a QR code we developed for our Awareness Day page on our mobile site:

Where Can I Learn More About QR Codes?

How are you using QR codes in your work in response to HIV? Please share with us!

Michelle Samplin-Salgado, new media strategist at

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