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 Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In less than two years, the South African AIDS-education project Young Africa Live is engaging hundreds of thousands of young people in sensitive discussions about love, sex and HIV/AIDS. Earlier this summer, the project released findings from its “Youth Sex Survey”, unprecedented in both size and content. The survey, conducted on the mobile platform that is the centerpiece of Young Africa Live, pulls back the curtain on what young South Africans think about crucial issues affecting their sexual health.

The Young Africa Live survey received more than 130,000 responses from the mobile platform’s users, the majority of whom are between 16 and 24. Findings included a high percentage (44 percent) of South African youth admitting they are sexually active at the same time that they are significantly concerned about HIV/AIDS – 81 percent of respondents indicated they equate “not telling a sexual partner that you carry the virus” with outright murder. In good news for the government’s promotion of circumcision as part of an overall HIV prevention program, a huge number of females – 78 percent -- stated that they prefer a circumcised partner.

Young Africa Live included some superficial questions in the poll, like whether guys and girls can be “just friends”. Placing serious and entertaining content side by side is the content formula Young Africa Live employs across its mobile platform – a combination that has proved successful for building an audience of more than 400,00 active users.

Young Africa Live’s founding organization, the Praekelt Foundation, didn’t want to brand the project as an “AIDS portal”. They avoided explicitly describing the platform as related to AIDS because of the stigma associated with the disease and the fact that many South Africans, particularly those who do not know their HIV-status, may not identify with that label.  “Our approach is not to preach, but to allow discussion, dialogue and community support”, says Marcha Neethling, Head of Operations for Praekelt.

The concept for Young Africa Live evolved from the recognition that South African youth are becoming avid users of mobile portals like Vodafone Live and MTNPlay. The Johannesburg-based Praekelt Foundation, which leverages mobile technology to improve the “health and well-being of people living in poverty”, was looking for a way to educate young South Africans about HIV/AIDS.  According to Neethling, they saw an opportunity in the fact that millions of young people use these mobile portals to chat, download music, read up on celebrity and sports news, participate in competitions, and win prizes. 

(Source: AudienceScapes)

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