The Mozambican government is collaborating with UNICEF and youth association, Coalizao, to roll out an mHealth pilot programme in four provinces to offer young people counselling on HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health.
Called SMS Biz, the programme uses UNICEF’s social monitoring platform U-Report, a free, SMS-based system that provides a platform for young people in developing countries to engage on issues that affect their lives and futures.
According to the 2009 National Survey on Prevalence, Behavioural Risks and Information about HIV and AIDS in Mozambique (INSIDA), HIV prevalence among young people aged between 15 and 24 was 7.9%, and HIV prevalence among young women was almost three times higher than that of their male counterparts.
As part of the SMS Biz initiative, the U-Report platform generates free SMS’ promoting participation and counselling for young people aged between 10 and 24 on sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.
As part of the programme, a counselling hub managed by 12 young counsellors have access to ICT facilities and guidelines to confidentially respond to queries relating to HIV, gender-based violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and an array of other issues.
Due to the popularity of mobile phones in the sub-Saharan region, an mHealth platform such as SMS Biz has the potential to reach young people irrespective of their location, income or educational backgrounds.
“We currently have 36,428 registered users on the system since its launch in October 2015. Our plan is to reach 50,000 adolescents and young people by the end of 2016 in the four provinces that the programme is currently running,” said SMS Biz Manager, Francelino Murela.
“Most of the information given is available at local clinics but young people are scared to go to clinics because they don’t want to be seen by their family relatives. Stigma and discrimination are real challenges for young people,” continued Murela.
The data generated by the SMS Biz initiative will give UNICEF and the government more insight into areas that need to be addressed.