Through a National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research project, in partnership with the Centre for AIDS Prevention Studies at the University of California, San Francisco (CAPS UCSF), Pangaea Zimbabwe AIDS Trust (PZAT) explored innovative strategies to mobilize adolescents and young people to increase uptake of HIV testing services in Chitungwiza using social media and mobile technology.
The aims of the study were
The SMM study finding were disseminated to various stakeholders who included the Chitungwiza Community Advisory Board (CAB), Youth Advisory Board (YAB), stakeholders, study participants and PZAT staff members.
The findings revealed that social media messaging is a vital element in the promotion of HIV testing in Zimbabwe among adolescents and young people. Social media and mobile technology were identified as effective, acceptable and accessible means to mobilize high risk adolescents and young people for HIV testing and access Sexual and Reproductive Health services.
High uptake of services at the SHAZ! HUB by adolescent boys and young men was attributed to how the staff at the HUB were accommodative, open-minded and engaging with adolescents and young men without any judgement or discriminatory attitude.
“Sister Mupakati is like a young person who brings herself down to our level and helps is with all our needs, she listened to me and treated me well without shouting,” reported one client.
In addition, the findings revealed that primary activities and services were geared towards young people. At the SHAZ! HUB young people access free clinical and non-clinical services such as HIV Testing Services (HTS), Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH), comprehensive sexuality education, short vocational training courses (candle making, cobra-making, dishwashing liquid, toilet cleaner and cordial drinks making). Young people are able to access Wi-Fi, satellite television and video games.
“It is good to access services at a place geared towards young people. It makes us feel comfortable to express ourselves…”
“When CATS accompanied me to the OI clinic, I just felt safe…I wasn’t confident enough to go by myself so the fact that CATS was there helped me…Even when I had to sign the form, held assisted me on what and where to write…”
The findings further revealed that it is of significance that adolescents and young people are informed about HIV testing and have access to sexual and reproductive health services with the purpose of fighting the HIV epidemic.
It is pivotal to understand that though it may not be feasible to replicate the full HUB model, there are valued elements that can be integrated into the public health facilities. These elements include: