The Department of Health in collaboration with Reach Digital Health, Avert, and Elton John AIDS Foundation has introduced the Young Africa Live (YAL) Smart Bot. This new WhatsApp platform aims to assist young individuals in addressing the complex questions that often arise during adolescence, such as love and relationships, sexuality, mental health, HIV and STIs, contraceptives, and pregnancy.
As the first platform under the YAL umbrella, this South African-based initiative is part of the Department’s interactive digital health platform, known as B-Wise Health. Through this platform, young people can find confidential and safe solutions to the challenges they face regarding sex and relationships.
The establishment of this initiative was driven the high rate of teenage pregnancy, HIV infections among young people, and the results of a 2012 Youth Sex Survey conducted in South Africa. The survey revealed that 60% of the surveyed adolescents did not feel comfortable discussing sexual matters with their parents. This indicates that important conversations about sex are still considered taboo, hindering young individuals from seeking answers to their questions and making informed health choices.
The YAL platform strives to address this issue empowering young people and giving them the space they need to explore answers without fear of judgment or consequences. The platform is user-friendly, easily accessible, and tailored to the language and preferences of the digital generation.
On the YAL platform, young people are encouraged to ask any question without feeling embarrassed or judged. The platform provides informative and accurate responses in a reassuring manner. Users have the option to chat privately via WhatsApp or join public discussions on the B-Wise Facebook or Instagram pages.
The platform utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing to understand and automatically respond with the most relevant answers. It continuously learns and improves based on usage, adapting to the various ways young people seek information. Trained experts at B-Wise provide insights, support, and information through the platform, as well as on Facebook and Instagram.
Through the WhatsApp platform, young individuals can explore different features, search for nearby services, ask questions, or request a call from a qualified counselor. It aims to connect them with information that empowers them during a time of significant physical and emotional changes.
This initiative ensures that each young person’s sexual, reproductive, and mental health journey is personalized according to their specific needs. It provides a safe and judgment-free environment for them to discuss sensitive topics.
South Africa recognizes the potential of digital health technologies in improving healthcare quality and accessibility, promoting positive changes in health behaviors. As part of this recognition, the Department of Health has developed the National Digital Health Strategy for South Africa.
The YAL platform operates 24/7/365 and delivers information in the language and manner that best suits the youth. To access and benefit from this initiative, young people can simply send a WhatsApp message saying “Hi” to +27 60 071 7844 and follow the prompts to sign up.