BluPoint is bringing digital sexual health education to young people in South Africa, starting with a pilot at WhizzKids United (WKU) Health Academy. Situated in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, in an area with the highest rate of HIV prevalence in the world (40.7%), WKU runs a football-oriented programme of youth development.
This programme teaches teamwork, respect among the genders, and goal orientation with the aim to reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, crime, and school absenteeism. The health academy serves 26 schools in the local area, reaching over 25,000 pupils.
Sexual health awareness
WKU offers crucial health services to adolescents, such as HIV testing, as part of its community care and support package. BluPoint enables young people attending the centre to access MTV Shuga (an African televisual drama that promotes sexual health awareness) and educational materials on their own devices – including Bluetooth enbled feature phones, radios, and smartphones.
Free Access on any device
Members of the communities served were previously unable to download such videos to their devices due to the prohibitive airtime cost of mobile data. In the case of Bluetooth feature phones, BluPoint is unique in being able to deliver web-based content to these devices, providing a novel experience of watching a soap on an old Nokia handset! All four of the current seasons of Shuga have been licensed by MTV for access via BluPoint and can be enjoyed while people wait at the clinic by connecting to the BluPoint hub. The Shuga material can even be accessed via FM Radio for those without a phone.
Making a difference
MTV Shuga is supported by the South Africa Department of Basic Education and UNICEF. A study by the World Bank on the impact of Shuga shows that its viewers are much more likely to get HIV tested. In addition, viewers of the soap have improved knowledge about HIV transmission, are less likely to have concurrent sexual partners, and more likely to engage in safer sex.
Alongside the sexual health message, WKU runs after-school programmes, providing a safe space for students to continue their learning beyond the classroom. BluPoint has provided a second hub in the WKU computer lab that allows them to cement the concepts learnt in the classroom and to complete their homework supported by a range of educational and reference material – from Khan Academy to Wikipedia for Schools. This same range of educational material has also been deployed into schools in KZN by the BluPoint team in association with Dixons Carphone and MRP Foundation.