A! Health Champions Hacking Tarvens

During the AIDS conference in Durban, it was discussed that the number of new recorded HIV infections has increased to 2000 per week. And that the demographic that is most affected is youth aged 15 – 24. This prompted the forming of the A! Heath Champions that will focus in dealing with the various diseases that seem to be targeting young people.

                                      Hackathon on Alcohol and Drug Addiction in Thobelani Secondary, Mpumalanga

The community engagements are called Hackathons and they seek to explore community social ills through conversations. It involves sharing ideas, experience and innovation solution. One of the biggest problems facing South African Health Sector is that the existing interventions are not working. Most of the time young people shy away from local stakeholders such as clinics for information because of the stigma of being judged by the health professional for living a certain lifestyle. The A! Health Champions, have taken it upon themselves to use the Hackathon model to hear the real voices of youth regarding the following issues:

  1. With so many interventions aimed at reducing the high disease burden, why are young people not using them and why are they continuing with risky behaviour.
  2. We also wanted to find out if young people knew what role their behaviour is contributing to the country’s high disease burden.
  3. We also wanted to find out what young people think needs to be done to decrease the high disease burden.                  

Eyadini Labantu HIV/AIDS infection in youth Hackathon in Durban, Kwazulu Natal


The A! Health Hackathons hack into spaces that young people normally hang out that are considered hot spots for risky behaviours such as taverns, school grounds, shisa nyamas and clubs as those are places where you find young people who are practising risky behaviours like having unprotected sex or abusing drugs. The aim is to use these Hackathons to find out the real reason why young people are engaging in risky behaviour. The A! Health Champions turn these hot spots into safe spaces.

Inter-generational Hackathon on Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights in Tso’s Butchery in Kagiso, Gauteng


The A! Health Hackathons were held in various chill spots across the country. The strategy of using these places enabled the A! Health champions to provoke critical conversations. We can hack into big issues so that we could do something about it. The topics that the Hackathons mainly focused on:

  • Alcohol and Drug Addiction
  • Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights

Hackathons were held in partnership with local stakeholders such as nurses, counsellors and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that the medical matters that arise are addressed by qualified professional. The A! Health Champions turned hot spots into safe spaces where youth can open up about real issues that they are facing. We were able to reach many young people in various provinces and we will be continuing the Hackathons with local stakeholders.


Pangu Pangu Shisa Nyama – Kwamhlanga, MP                         Napjadi Liquior Store, in Mankweng, Limpopo



Our next step is to meet and share our finding in the 1st A! Health Bosberaad where all the A! Champions will meet to share their ideas and develop community interventions that will have an impact in #YouthHealthMatters.

We are the alternative!


Because #YouthHealthMatters

Introducing the A! Health Champions

Pssss…. have you heard? ACTIVATE! has a new focus group where all their focus will be on the #YouthHealthMatters. Over the past 5 years, the ACTIVATE! has had Activators that have been working in isolation in various health initiatives. Well, this year we are happy to introduce the A! Health Champions that are Activators that are running initiatives or working within the Health sector who are working together to become an influential force for good, in the South African Health Sector.

Now you maybe asking yourself what is this A! Health sector and what role it plays in assisting the alleviation of the high disease burden in the country? Well, the A! Health Sector is a platform where Activators working with Health issues or rather under the Health Department work together to implement real change in the community. The sector recognises the work done by both the health workers on the ground and the government health Departments. With that said, the plan is to assist in professionalising and elevating the work that the A! Health Champions are doing in their communities.

As we have seen the South African Department of Health has and still is making a huge effort in trying to reduce the number of people infected by HIV/AIDS, especially the growing number of young people living with the disease. The other issue is that the government is trying to control the high rate of young people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. The country’s disease burden is such that the government can’t be working alone to resolve issues. Which is why the A! Health Champions have taken it upon themselves to work with the government and other sectors to ensure that we have an impact. We believe that by working together, we can make a difference.

The main reason for this increase in the country’s disease burden is that the Health Sector is not youth friendly or youth-led. The A! Health Champions have been engaging youth and have taken it upon themselves to be at the forefront of the pandemic and are leading alternative methods of combating the high disease burden. They are also championing the importance of living healthy lifestyles so that youth can see that there are positive alternative lifestyles options rather than drinking or doing drugs for fun.

Currently the A! Health Champions, have received various achievements such as reduction in pregnancies in the various university campus, and they have been finalists for various organizations such as the Innovation Hub, SABC Ventures and have received funding and support from their communities. They have trained over 140 HIV Counsellors and are assisting in increasing the pass rate in nursing schools while advocating for youth-friendly clinics nationally. And we are only getting started.

How will the A! Health Sector keep the fire burning? It will be hosting its 1st A! Health Bosberaad, in partnership with FEM and HOSPERSA. A bosberaad is an exclusive get-away to a secluded venue, usually in the bundus, that politicians used to attend during the apartheid era, to end political deadlocks. The A! Health Bosberaad will take place on the 1st to the 4th of November, 2017. 30 Activators from across the country, will come together with a goal to strategise for our future community initiatives and our role in implementing the National Adolescent and Youth Health Policy 2017. The A! Health Champions Pledge Ceremony will be the After Party of the Year. Tickets are sold out! Don’t miss the next one if you are an Activator who is a health professional or working in a health initiative and would like to join the A! Health Champions.

We have exciting plans for the next couple of years and are also in the process of working with exciting partners that will help us grow the impact in our communities. Join us!

We are the alternative!



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