Project Khuluma

The Issue

In South Africa over 15% of young women aged 15-24 are infected with HIV, and 5% of young men. Research shows that HIV positive adolescents are at increased risk of mental health problems, meaning they have higher rates of depression and anxiety, and often stop taking their medication.

The Approach

Khuluma was launched in late 2013 in South Africa across clinics in Pretoria and Cape Town, to provide an integrated, cost-effective and scalable solution to the growing challenge of mental ill health.

Khuluma is a social support program where participants are placed in support groups of 10-15 peers who share similar experiences. These support groups are enabled by our digital platform, where participants discuss – peer to peer, at any time via text message – a range of issues relating to their condition or needs for 3 months.

We have also developed a mentor program using a ‘train the trainer’ model, where our participants are trained to deliver peer to peer psychosocial support in digital support groups. Our mentors are also engaged in creative and participatory action research using different media, including analysing our text messages, as well as using photography and animation to express how HIV has impacted their lives.

The Outcome

We have worked with 160 adolescents – so far they have sent over 80,000 text messages, which is an average of 6 messages per day.

We have proven that our support groups have significant impact, with our outcomes including:

  • Increased self-reported medical adherence
  • Increased perceived levels of social support
  • Decreased internalised social stigma
  • Increased knowledge and access to services

Main photo by Troy Khoza


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