Online platform Choma has set itself the goal of using interactive means to tackle a rather hefty topic: prevention of HIV transmission in South Africa. Via their PC or laptop, young women can get informed about HIV and how to protect themselves against it.
Questions about sexuality and relationships are something all young people have. But who can they ask? Their parents? That's embarassing enough for most teenagers and in parts of Africa, it is practically taboo. Friends and acquaintances? Often, the things they know are only hearsay while sex ed doesn't play an important role. These information gaps are exactly what Choma, an online portal brought to life in 2013 by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Charlize Theron Outreach Project, are looking to close via a method that is targeted, playful, trustworthy and allows users to get in contact over the phone at any time.
Approximately 400,000 new HIV infections are reported every year in South Africa. Half of these cases involve young women aged between 15 – 25 years old. Many of these infections could be avoided were it not for a lack of knowledge. But how do you get this knowledge to young people without boring them or turning them off?
Dr. Sindi says: Be inspired, be healthy, be safe
Upon first look, Choma works just like any other online platform for young women however, behind the classic lifestyle content, there is a lot more to be found. Choma sees itself as a community and a shelter. Members can interact in forums and chatrooms or pose questions direct to the Choma team. Two moderators from the South African health organisation HIVSA are available to members 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, Dr. Sindi clarifies a number of general questions once a week.
The platform also uses gamification to get its message across. Players must collect certain things and avoid others in order to progress through the levels: risk-associated things such as alcohol, drugs and unprotected sex must be avoided (otherwise the level is over) and condoms can be collected. As a reward, players then meet up with a boy or go to parties.
Choma places an emphasis on featuring a colourful mix of content that interests many young women and allows them easily engage young women in serious issues surrounding sexual health. It seems to work, with about 800,000 young women and girls in South Africa currently using the mobile version.
This article was translated from the original by Silvana which appeared on our German platform.