Background: The Western region of Kenya has a high burden of HIV/AIDS, high teenage pregnancy rates, low condom usage and limited access to SRH information and services among the youth.
Unmarried but sexually active young people have an even higher unmet need for contraception, with 46% (nationally) indicating that they are not currently using any form of contraception. This means that they are not only exposing themselves to the risks of unwanted or early pregnancy, and all the social implications of such, but that they are also exposing themselves to STIs including HIV/AIDS.
The project seeks to promote contraceptive uptake – particularly condoms, which have been singled out as a critical element in HIV prevention — among young people aged between 15-24 years using ICT and interactive media in western Kenya. It is part of a wider programme being implemented in the region by the African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), Great Lakes University of Kisumu (GLUK), Family Health Options, Kenya (FHoK), and Marie Stopes Kenya.
What did the programme involve? The project focuses on strengthening the capacity of partners and stakeholders to provide comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services to young people in four districts in western Kenya over the next two years. It was initiated by a set of strategies including health education, interactive media and linkages to health services.
The ICT and interactive elements of the project include SMS messages and an interactive Facebook page. Information relayed to young people includes awareness and prevention of sexually transmitted infections (including HIV/AIDS), prevention of unplanned pregnancies, advice on abortion, and contacts of local youth-friendly health facilities. This is supported by a number of young peer advocates on the ground who distribute condoms and can link young people to health facilities for comprehensive HIV and sexual and reproductive health services.
Why this approach: Social media and SMS messaging are popular amongst young people in Kenya and can offer a confidential, non-judgemental way for them to feel comfortable about accessing information and services.
Results observed: Findings show an increase in contraceptive uptake by young people at local clinics between April and December 2014. Approximately 6,417 young people have ‘liked’ the Facebook page and many have used the page to engage with discussions about the consequences of unprotected sex, abortion, where to access HIV services and condom use. There are also indications that the range of health services offered to young people is beginning to broaden as a result of the project.
Lessons learnt: Social media platforms could be widened to include websites and other channels and existing channels could be strengthened.