BOTSWANA VISITS ESWATINI FOR SADC-LUCT PROJECT
This meeting follows a verification exercise carried by SADC in February to check on progress on implementation after the lapse of the first year of the project. The working meeting was billed for yesterday and today, the 11-12th May 2023. The purpose of the meeting is;
- For Botswana and Lesotho to benchmark on the work that Eswatini has done so far.
- To develop an accelerated workplan in preparation for implementation of the 2nd year of the project.
Over and above robust social media presence, the project has also held training workshops for 100 HIV prevention officers who were selected from the four regions of the country and trained on HIV Prevention, entrepreneurship and livelihood skills as well as the use of ICT on HIV prevention programs. Overall, the project is targeting 200 HIV prevention officers who should have been trained by the end of the first two years of the project.
During the first year of implementation, the THPPY also visited schools to assess what knowledge gaps exist among young people in schools in relation to GBV, SRH (Sexual Reproductive Health), HIV prevention and HIV testing. Furthermore, to market the project and its various social media pages. This exercise was conducted in all the four regions of the country. The first of twelve visits took place in the Hhohho region at Timphisini High School and Mhlatane High School.
The initiative is a collaborative effort between governments of three countries being; Botswana , Lesotho and Eswatini, National AIDS Councils in these countries (NERCHA for Eswatini) and Limkokwing University of Creative Technology as lead implementer. The project is named, ‘Using technology to enhance HIV prevention interventions for young people in Botswana, Eswatini and Lesotho”. The SADC funded project is targeting young people within the age range 15-24. The purpose of the project is to reach the target group with HIV prevention messages packaged mainly for electronic media.
The three countries have all set ambitious targets of reducing new HIV infections among young people by 2023: Eswatini by 85%; Botswana by 80%, Lesotho by 75%. This project is a response to the call for proposals by the SADC HIV and AIDS Special Fund (Third Round). It presents an information and communication technology-based intervention for the prevention of new HIV infections in the 3 countries. The research and intervention project will be implemented by Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in the respective countries, with support from the National AIDS Councils (NACs).
This project aims to contribute to a reduction of new HIV infections among young people aged 15-24 years. The project objectives include: To Scale-up and adapt multi-media and technology-based prevention programmes targeting adolescents and young people; To develop a highly competitive technology-based training course on the use of appropriate technology in the delivery of demand creation messages; and To collect relevant programme information (including surveys) for the HIV and AIDS response. It will expand and complement existing HIV prevention programmes for young people aged 15-24 years and further promote coordination and cooperation between the 3 countries’ HIV prevention programmes.
The project will scale-up and adapt multi-media and technology-based HIV prevention programmes targeting young people. Also, it will include highly competitive technology-based capacity enhancement on the use of appropriate technology in the delivery of demand creation messages; and collect relevant programme information including research for HIV and AIDS response targeting HIV testing, prevention, and treatment, care and support programmes. The main areas of focus for the project include empowerment, advocacy and communication, demand creation, and strengthening monitoring and evaluation. The intended outcomes include increased HIV Prevention services uptake amongst young people; improved access to HIV Prevention information by young people; and improved comprehensive knowledge levels amongst young people.
Through implementation of this project there will be observed strengthened local and regional partnerships beyond the normal boundaries, including bridging the gap between the young and old, through the use of digital platforms for programming. In general, new infections are high among young people globally. In most of the country HIV responses which include Botswana, Lesotho and the Kingdom of Eswatini, the drivers of the epidemic are linked to activities involving the youth. The drivers include low comprehensive knowledge about HIV and AIDS, early sexual debut, dropping out of school, poverty and unemployment, intergenerational sex, low levels of medical male circumcisions, low HIV testing and multiple sexual partnerships and low condom use.
In all 3 countries, the pandemic is still distinctly gendered, with a greater toll on young women than on men. According to the findings of the evaluation of the extended Eswatini National Strategic Framework (NSF), Social Behaviour Change (SBC) interventions have been scaled- up but behavioural indicators have not improved. Young people 15-24 years having sex with more than one partner increased (women 2.7% in 2010 to 3.3% in 2014 and men 16% in 2010 to 21.1% in 2014) while knowledge of HIV prevention among adolescents and young people declined in the same period. The Eswatini NSF and the Umgubudla Road map advocate for interventions to effectively micro target young people as a priority population, particularly adolescent girls and young women. Overall, the increase in risk and vulnerability shows the challenge in translating education and awareness into behaviour change.
The Limkokwing University of Creative Technology Campuses will work with each country’s HIV and AIDS response stakeholders, especially those involved in the delivery of HIV testing, prevention, and treatment, care and support interventions. These service organization will be capacitated to use new and emerging information and communication technology to deliver HIV prevention messages to the primary target, adolescents and young people aged 15-24 years. It is envisioned that each country will establish 8 partnerships to support referral and outreach HIV services for young people. A total of 24 partnerships is planned through the project.
Activities will include the creation of online applications by the youth, bootcamps where youth will come up with short films and documentaries to share with their peers, youth and TV radio shows amongst other deliverables. The first part of the project will last for 2 years before review.