South Africa’s HIV youth development initiative, loveLife, has launched a digital mHealth platform that aims to reduce risky sexual behaviour and the associated high HIV prevalence among young people.
iloveLife.mobi is an interactive digital platform that has been designed especially for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 to encourage leadership to drive behaviour change and promote sexual and reproductive health.
“Over the last 16 years we have done innovative work with young people in order to bring down HIV infections, but we need to work hard to remain relevant, we need to find new ways of doings things. And the opportunity to create that change is here,” said loveLife CEO, Grace Matlhape.
An mHealth platform was identified as the ideal solution due the prevalence of cell phones in South Africa, where 80% of people who access the internet do so via their mobile devices. According to research by Durham University, 50% of young people in low income communities have their own mobile devices, a number that is quickly growing.
The launch of iloveLife.mobi, which has been funded by the German Government through its state-owned Development Bank KfW, means that now loveLife can make its support structure and its wealth of knowledge accessible to millions more young people in the country.
“With mobile technology, we literally hold the future in our hands. A safe, healthy and inclusive future powered by the energy and idealism of young people,” said Matlhape.
The iloveLife.mobi platform can be accessed even with basic cell phones. Users with access to the internet can log onto iloveLife.mobi to create a profile, while cell phone users in remote areas can dial *120*2121# and follow the prompts.
The site tackles all teen-life topics from relationships to life transitions through assessments, quizzes, videos and articles. Everything they do on the site scores points – points which can win them desirable prizes like clothing store shopping vouchers. Taking preventative tests regularly also scores more valuable points.
Apart from helping users understand why knowing their HIV status is important, the mobi site also pinpoints their nearest youth friendly clinics, and gives users the opportunity to rate the services once they’ve been – for more points, of course.
Incentives and conditional rewards programmes have been successfully applied worldwide across education, social welfare and healthcare. Recently, during a two-year experiment in Southern Malawi, girls between 13 and 22 were rewarded for staying in school. The results revealed a 38% reduction in sexual activity, a 30% reduction in teenage pregnancy and a 40% reduction in early marriage. Furthermore, HIV prevalence in the incentivised group was more than half that of the control group.
iloveLife is looking at attracting one million young people in the first two years, with 160,000 actively engaged users earning points. loveLife will also be tracking the number of HIV tests that can be attributed to the site with an aim to have 500,000 young people take HIV tests by June 2017.
“Nothing like this has ever been done before, and it’s all about you. iloveLife.mobi is about your leadership development journey to help you become great, it’s about giving you real rewards for taking action in the real world. It’s about making your life better,” concluded Matlhape.