In an effort to encourage young people to get tested and know their HIV status, a new app, Khetha (meaning “to choose” in Xhosa) , was launched in Khayelitsha on Friday November 29.
The event took place at Isivivana centre and the launch was part of commemorating World Aids Day which is marked on December 1.
The initiative is a partnership between Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Aviro Health.
Khetha is a web-based platform for young people who are interested in taking an HIV test; it is designed to complement, not replace existing HIV testing protocols. It is a counselling syllabus that is designed to engage adolescents and young people for HIV testing and prevention.
The platform was designed using extensive feedback from young people who attended their workshops. Made up of open-source video content along with a delivery app, Khetha can be used by NGOs, clinics and other health facilities to support HIV counselling and information sessions for young patients.
Damian Hacking, eHealth activities manager at Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Khayelitsha, said in South Africa young people were facing the fastest-growing HIV infection rate with 39 percent of all new infections occurring between the ages of 15 and 24. But he said what was worrying was the factor that there was a very slow rates of HIV testing. He said what had propelled them to establish this platform was that young people needed new, creative ways to understand the HIV testing and counselling process.
He said it was important that they designed this platform with youth involvement so that it could be easy to understand their need and desires while addressing some of their concerns with current health services.
Mr Hacking said the harsh reality was that many young people find clinics and health staff intimidating and unapproachable, which may lead them to simply not access health services.
“All content is in line with the South African health department and the World Health Organisation’s HIV testing and counselling. This digital platform is data-free and it makes it easy for the youth to access the content.
“The country’s health system is not adapted to deliver effective HIV services for young people. This informative platform includes videos and animations in English, isiXhosa and isiZulu with male and female version depending on the user. By launching this platform we remember the HIV struggle and also to state that the struggle is not over,” he said.
Mr Hacking said adolescent deaths from HIV are increasing with HIV being the leading cause of death in South Africa and Africa in generally.
He said in 2016 a UNAIDS study of 19 low and -middle income countries, only 50% of youth between 15 and 19 years of age had ever tested for HIV.
Of those who had tested, he said, less than 12% had done so in the past 12 months. But he said worldwide, 25% of all new infections are adolescent girls and young women aged between 15 and 24 years.
Dr Musaed Abrahams, chief executive officer of Aviro, said young people were the highest group getting infected. He said youth testing really need to be increased so that they could lead a healthy lifestyle.
Dr Abrahams said in some of their research they discovered that most health facilities were not youth friendly therefore they created this platform. Dr Abrahams said they then sat down to discus what of kind of information youth needed and where they would be able to access it and that was the birth of this platform. For more on the platform, log on to https://khetha.avirohealth.com/