Despite the increasing adoption of mobile phones by young people in sub-Saharan Africa, there is paucity of large scale mobile health (m-Health) programme aiming at increasing HIV comprehensive knowledge and generate tailored demand for high impact HIV interventions.
During a design workshop with stakeholders that included young people, government, NGOs, mobile phone companies and software developers, three programme outputs were identified: Effective SMS-based mechanism to increase young people participation in the national HIV prevention response available;Young people have increased comprehensive knowledge of high impact HIV prevention measures and services; and Young people demand for and are referred to HIV high impact prevention services (HTC, Condoms, MC, ART).
Zambia U-Report is built on open-source software (RapidSMS) and is available on all three mobile companies in Zambia. A reverse billing system is in place to ensure free SMS to young people who interact with trained counselors based at Champ Zambia, a local NGO.
The platform provides confidential, free of charge, individualized and interactive counseling services on HIV, STI to adolescents and youths.
The counselor web-interface allows for quality control of the SMS counseling. In addition, the platform enables tailored SMS demand creation for available services, and referral to closer locations. The programme tracks and reports periodically on key knowledge gaps and emerging issues related to HIV and STI among young people.
As at January 31, 2014, 36,256 U-Reporters had joined the programme, 44 % female and 72% aged 15-24 years.
Over 25,000 U-Reporters had engaged counselors through SMS, generating over 113,000 SMS.
Most U-Reporters reside in Lusaka (50%) and Copperbelt (30%) provinces where the programme is being piloted.
On average, each of the three SMS counselors, working in shifts over 24 hours, attend to 90 SMS requests per day.
Based on campaigns and polls that have been conducted using the Zambia U-report platform, there is strong evidence that this innovative approach to increase adolescent participation in HIV programming is able to increase demand for services and receive input from young people on how best to design solutions for and with them in a bid to achieving zero new infections in Zambia.