Empowering adolescents to break the silence of stigma and reach thousands of others in the Eastern Cape

The Eastern Cape province suffers one of the highest HIV burdens in the world. The 2017 National HIV prevalence survey identified the Eastern Cape as having the third-highest burden of HIV (25.2%) after Kwazulu-Natal (27.0%) and Free State (25.5%). During the preceding five years the region has experienced the highest rise in HIV infections in the country.

According to UNAIDS, low HIV and sexual health knowledge is a key barrier to reducing HIV infections among young people. Within South Africa, only 43% of young people are reported to have sufficient knowledge about HIV prevention.

The SALUS schools programme:

The Salus schools programme was conducted at the KT Mchasa School located in the Umtata Region of Eastern, Cape South Africa. The pilot comprises three modules with the aim of empowering youth to break free of the fear of HIV stigma, enabling them to talk freely about the disease, treatment and its impact on them and their community. Interactive animations and storytelling films (made by team members) were used as tools to facilitate and empower talk, discourse and involvement/dissemination.

Learners’ were invited to volunteer to become ‘SEEDS,’ receiving training about how to become a communicator in their community. The aim was to empower them to share the digital assets across their social networks, facilitating talk about the importance of acceptance and support, HIV, treatment, and encouraging one another to test and access treatment if appropriate.

250 learners downloaded SALUS content to their smartphones and reported sharing that content with members of their WhatsApp groups. Reporting showed WhatsApp group dissemination was estimated at 8,000 with many young people generating social media discussions encouraging acceptance and support.


The pilot was successful in meeting its core objectives. A two fold increase of young people from the school and local community was reported from the provincial department of Health. SALUS gained permission to view the previous 12 months statistics as a basic level of baseline data for comparison. This data confirmed the reported increased activity.

Young people reclaim their school and college from HIV discrimination and stigma

A series of workshops were co-designed with the team and then piloted at a school and college that team members attended, organised by themselves. The workshops aimed to facilitate discussion about HIV within educational contexts: to empower youth to talk, and to become communicators in their communities.Due to the success of the pilot, the college requested that they delivered the workshop as part of the first-year induction. The team organised and delivered (using their film material, as mentioned above) to over 130 new students. As a result, 16 young people wanted to join the Salus team so that they could continue the work in the college.