Youth Mentors Spark Successful Youth-friendly Programs
Promoting HIV prevention and reproductive health
Although HIV prevalence is declining in sub-Saharan Africa, recent estimates show that 13.7 percent of South African youth under age 20 are HIV positive. In the fight to contain this public health crisis, a critical challenge emerges: what is an effective way to reach the country's young people with relevant and appropriate information on HIV & AIDS and other reproductive health issues?
The Integrated Primary Health Care (IPHC) Project initiated an innovative peer mentoring program that promises positive impact and sustainability. By sharing stories and advice with their often misinformed and misguided peers, trained youth mentors offer information and support to help young people make good decisions and protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies, violence, and infection with HIV and other STIs.
Creating youth-friendly services
One of the IPHC Project’s priorities is to train youth mentors to promote voluntary counseling and testing so that individuals know their health status and can better protect themselves and their partners, and seek treatment if needed. The multi-pronged program places trained mentors in hospitals and clinics, where they support and guide young people entering the health system—an efficient and promising approach that helps to create youth-friendly services at the community level.
The numbers speak of success: youth accessing health services increased an average of 45 percent and thousands received up-to-date, accurate information on reproductive health issues. In that same period, family planning uptake and HIV testing increased considerably, in part due to the continued training of youth mentors. The program ultimately resulted in a more informed and more proactive youth population.
Funded by USAID, IPHC provides technical expertise to strengthen district health systems in five provinces of South Africa. IPHC is a consortium led by MSH, with Health Systems Trust, the University Research Company, and the South African Association of Youth Clubs.