LoveLife South Africa

loveLife is a youth focused HIV prevention initiative in South Africa. The not-for-profit organisation promotes AIDS-free living among South African youth aged between 12 and 19 by employing a holistic approach to youth development and behaviour change that motivates adolescents to take charge of their lives for brighter futures.

Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
TypeNon-profit organization
FocusHIV, AIDS, Youth
Area served
nationwide South Africa
Methodpeer educators, education, media
Key people
  • Grace Matlhape, Chief Executive Officer

The overall aim of loveLife is to reduce the rate of new infections in young people, in order to reduce the overall prevalence of HIV in South Africa, which stands at 10.9% (2008)[1] of the population. (Additional sources: UNAIDS, HSRC, see also HIV/AIDS in South Africa) Considering that a high number of new infections are among 15- to 24-year-olds,[2] loveLife targets people below 15 to ensure they remain HIV negative and youth above 15 to help them recognise and tackle their elevated risk of infection.

loveLife's comprehensive strategy was designed to address the specifics of the epidemic in South Africa, as well as its resources and socio-economic infrastructure. It seeks to achieve sustained engagement with the first generation of young people growing up in post-apartheid South Africa (the so-called ‘born-frees’) who are exposed to greater benefits than their parents but still face many of the socio-economic legacies of apartheid, such as poverty and unemployment.

loveLife engages with South African youth through outreach and support programmes which are implemented by a corps of peer educators. These young people have permission to work in 5 500 schools, 18 (in 2010) Youth Centres (Y-Centres), and in partnership with up to 200 community-based organisations across the country.[3] These programmes are complemented by an integrated media campaign on TV, radio, mobile, print and the web.

While loveLife's national office is situated in Johannesburg, there are provincial offices in each of South Africa's nine province plus more than 20 regional offices nationwide. loveLife's 18 Y-centres are strategically set up in areas of high HIV prevalence.


loveLife was launched in late 1999 as a joint initiative of leading South African non-government organisations and the South African government, in partnership with several private foundations and private sector support. Amongst others the Henry J Kaiser family Foundation has been a lead funder and driver of the organisation. Primary funders in 2010 include the South African Department of Health, the Department of Social Development and Sports and Recreation South Africa. Additional funding and support is provided by South Africa's corporate sector including Barloworld, Murray & Roberts, Independent Newspapers, Rapport, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF), the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Ster-Kinekor, VW and Anglo American. Large donors such as DfiD, the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, UNFPA and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have also supported loveLife.

Since 2008, loveLife has received technical support from DED, the German Development Service (from 2011 on GIZ, Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit), with several advisors, volunteers and private public partnership funds


loveLife believes that young South Africans have adequate knowledge about HIV and how to protect themselves. However, HIV incidence rates show that youth still put themselves at risk.

loveLife believes that new HIV infections among young people are not a result of poor knowledge or the misinterpretation of safe-sex messages, but are due to individual, structural and social factors, namely: unemployment, gender inequality, poor individual outlook and self-worth, and little vocational opportunities, which constitute key drivers of high-risk behaviour.


loveLife's strategy is therefore to strengthen young people's sense of identity and self-esteem, and to develop a sense of belonging and personal initiative among youth to help them link with opportunities and ensure they give back to their communities, by creating opportunities for others.

The organisation's current (since 2009) campaign L2M3 (Loving life, Making my move) encourages young people to 'make their move'. The campaign is unpacked through loveLife's various media platforms and programmes designed to equip young people with the skills they need to navigate day-to-day pressures and social expectations; find ways to make a move to personal development and growth; and guide them to HIV prevention outreach and counselling services.

Programmes, activities and servicesEdit

loveLife's strongest asset is its corps of 1 200 peer motivators (groundBREAKERs) aged between 18 and 25, who are assisted by 6 000 Mpintshis (Zulu slang word for ‘buddies’) to implement a countrywide programme of community-level outreach and support.

groundBREAKERs receive a small stipend each month and take part in vocational training during their one-year learnership with loveLife, during which time they interact with youth and unroll loveLife programmes in more than 900 hubs across the country, which include schools, clinics, franchises and Y-Centres. In 2009, groundBREAKERs and Mpintshis reached 906 787 young people through loveLife's programmes and sport and recreational activities; and more than 2-million youth through sport leagues, festivals and other events held at its hubs.[4]

loveLife's network of multi-purpose Y-Centres provide skills training (such as radio production, IT skills and debating), sports facilities, sexual health education and clinical care all in one setting. To further extend the reach of these programmes and services, loveLife's loveTrain was re-launched in 2010 as a mobile Y-Centre that travels across the country providing Y-Centre facilities at train stations situated in the more rural parts of South Africa.

In response to research that shows that many young people feel alienated from South Africa's public healthcare facilities, and perceive health providers to be unsympathetic or intimidating, loveLife joined forces with the Department of Health to develop Youth Friendly Services, designed to strengthen primary care services, and make them more accessible to young people. A collection of user-friendly programme tools, known as the YFS Toolkit, has been developed by loveLife to enrich the way that YFS is managed, delivered and evaluated.

To further cultivate healthy bodies and minds, the loveLife Games is one of loveLife's longest running and flagship recreation development programmes. It utilises various codes of sport as well as the performing arts to promote healthy lifestyles and positive attitudes, and encourages contestants to work collaboratively to achieve their full potential.

loveLife's media platforms – radio, web, mobile and print media (including loveLife's bi-monthly youth magazine UNCUT) – as well as its public service announcements aired on the national broadcaster, SABC (TV and radio) support and unpack all campaigns.

In addition, MYMsta, loveLife's mobile social network available on WAP-enabled mobile phones, was launched in 2008 as the first social mobile network in the world dedicated to youth empowerment and HIV prevention. This mobile platform[5] connects teens with work and volunteer opportunities; offers career guidance; gives them the chance to exchange ideas with like-minded people in groups and forums, which tackle issues from unemployment to alcohol abuse.

loveLife also operates a call centre that runs dedicated toll-free national help lines providing sexual counselling and referrals for youth and parents. In 2009, the organisation's call centre became the first in South Africa to offer callers the option to send a request to the call centre to call them back for free with the launch of its "Please Call Me" (PCM) service. The "PCM" service enables callers with limited or no funds for phoning to still receive counselling or information.

Finally, taking into account that one in six, or 15.9% of South Africans between two and 18 years of have lost a parent (HSRC), loveLife's goGogetter programme was launched with funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2008.[6] This nationwide network of 500 grandmothers provide material and emotional support to as many as 5 000 OVCs.


In 2006, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised loveLife as the only national programme in the world that did measure HIV prevalence.[7] WHO found: "Strong evidence for improvements in participation in HIV testing, interpersonal communication about HIV and decreases in HIV infection rates."[7]

HIV prevalence has declined among children aged 2–14, from 5.6% in 2002 to 2.5% in 2008; and among youth aged 15–24 from 10.3% in 2005 to 8.6% in 2008[1] – indicating that HIV prevention campaigns and behaviour change programmes are making a dent in the epidemic. The survey also reveals that loveLife has high reach into the youth age ranges, with the organisation reaching 79.1% of youth aged 15–24 in 2008.[8]

The challenges that have to be faced when evaluating a national HIV prevention strategy as loveLife is described in Pettifor et al. 2007.[9]

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey, 2008: A Turning Tide Among Teenagers? Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, ISBN 978-0-7969-2292-2, (page xvi)
  2. ^ A gauge of HIV prevention in South Africa 2009 Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 978-0-9584990-6-4, (p28-32)
  3. ^ loveLife Report on Activities and Progress 2009 Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 978-0-9584990-7-1, p43, p37
  4. ^ loveLife Report on Activities and Progress 2009 Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 978-0-9584990-7-1, pages 53, 67
  5. ^ Archived 18 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine, also accessible via Internet-PC
  6. ^ Gates Foundations Grant to loveLife Archived 1 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b Preventing HIV/AIDS in young people, page 225, page 219. ISBN 978-92-4-120938-0
  8. ^ online-presentation of: South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey, 2008: A Turning Tide Among Teenagers? Archived 26 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, page 33
  9. ^ Challenge of evaluating a national HIV prevention programme: the case of loveLife, South Africa