Mobile Health Program

The Mobile Health Program supports the core work of Star for Life coaches in schools. It aims to strengthen three main pillars – HIV/AIDS counselling and testing, referrals to external health facilities and comprehensive health education. It complements the coaches’ work by providing in-depth adolescent health education through workshops that speak more directly to issues relating to safe sex, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the physical and emotional changes puberty brings.

This program has a staff of three, consisting of a professional registered nurse who heads the program and two HIV counsellors. The MHU staff work in close collaboration with the Star for Life coaches and the life skills teachers in Star for Life schools. The Mobile Health Program also reaches out to the community where the learners reside. Through campaigns and special interventions the MHU is able to reach out to the community in order to engage learners’ parents and other community members. The aim of this activity is to ensure that relevant information continues to be disseminated within the community and that people are educated and provided with correct information. We hope to encourage parents to start talking to their children about health-related issues.

The situation with HIV and AIDS has improved a great deal since the pandemic peaked in South Africa and Namibia around 2004-2007 thanks to the combined efforts by governments, international agencies and organisations like Star for Life. For example, the number of new infections and AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by about half. But of course, all is relative. The numbers are still very problematic, especially for the young women. The vulnerability of girls and young women in the context of HIV and AIDS is similar across the whole of Southern and Eastern Africa.

One of the major reasons for this is thought to be the lack of or limited access to adolescent friendly health services. Young people report feeling stigmatised and discriminated against when seeking sexual health services in their community clinics.

As a response to this in 2010, Star for Life launched their first Mobile Health Unit in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Its main purpose was to scale up adolescent friendly health care services amongst learners who are in Star for Life schools. The program in KwaZulu-Natal had been running for five years when an evaluation was conducted and results showed that the program was helping to reduce HIV among young people and increase knowledge of HIV/AIDS. Based on these findings the program was awarded further funding to expand its operation to other Star for Life sites – the Gauteng Province and Namibia.

Facts and reports about health:

Key statistics from South Africa for the year 2018 (source: UNAIDS):

  • HIV prevalence among people aged 15-49 was 20.4%
  • In total, 240.000 people were newly infected by HIV
  • Among youth aged 15-24 years, the number of girls that were newly infected was more than double that of the boys (69.000 compared to 25.000). In general, about 190 girls and young women were infected every day.
  • Less than half of youth (15-24 years) were able to correctly ways of preventing HIV transmission.

The situation in Namibia is very similar to that in South Africa, although the absolute numbers are smaller due to the much smaller population. The vulnerability of girls and young women in the context of HIV and AIDS is similar across the whole of Southern and Eastern Africa.