ZIMBABWE has embraced the use of mobile technologies to curb the spread of HIV/Aids among adolescents and young people through the launch of a youth helpline project.
The project which is being run by Youth Advocate Zimbabwe (YAZ) in collaboration with the ministry of Health and National Aids Council (NAC) with funding from Sadc and is also being implemented in Botswana and Malawi, seeks to enhance the access to integrated HIV/ Aids and sexual reproductive health services amongst adolescents and young people, through the use of the 393 helpline.
Speaking at the official launch of the youth helpline project last week YAZ executive director Tatenda Songore said the helpline is to empowering young people with information about their sexual reproductive health and well as assist them to acquire services from health facilities.
“The 393 youth help line is helping young people to get back on track in terms of accessing HIV services, ART adherence and make sure that they are well informed about HIV services.
“The helpline does not only offer HIV services but also links young people to diverse key services that include educational, economic support, psycho-social support and child protection services.
“We have partnered with strategic government ministries like the ministry of education, ministry of social welfare to ensure that young people get the assistance they require,” said Songore.
He also said the project was taking advantage of the young people’s high access to mobile technologies to address issues that will see the reduction of HIV infections.
“The 393 youth helpline uses mobile technologies; it’s a contact centre that is diversified in nature that offers information, counselling and referrals to adolescents and young people, in trying to address the HIV pandemic.
“We are using the power of mobile technology because young people have wider access to communication channels using mobile phones.
“In the three countries we are implementing this project, we started this project six months ago with a baseline and currently we have already enrolled 6 435 young people from the three districts we are operating from.
“These young people have been given an opportunity to access high impact HIV/Aids services, which include HIV testing, with a total of 2329 already accessing testing services, 482 who are on ART have been identified, who have been lost to follow up on and are being supported to get back to treatment and also psycho-social support is being rendered as they proceed with their journey to treatment,” added Songore.
Nac communications director Medelina Dube concurred regarding the gap that the helpline will cover in terms of managing HIV/Aids in young people.
“This initiative will help in terms of giving information to young people between the ages of 10 and 24.
“The issue of whether adolescents should have access to sexual reproductive health service without the consent of their parents in the country have been a hot issue, so the coming of the help line will enable young people to access information about their sexual reproductive health.
“This helpline is also coming in to serve victims of sexual abuse, as they can easily call the 393 help line and get assistance, covering the gab for those who might not have known where to turn to after being victims of abuse,” Dube said. – Daily News