Bridging the Research-Action Gap to Combat HIV in Botswana

Youth Impact believes that health and education needs to be taught by youth for youth. (Source: Youth Impact)
Moitshepi Matsheng

When Moitshepi Matsheng was just 6 years old, her mother died of AIDS in Botswana. This devastating early loss fueled Matsheng’s later passion to destigmatize discussions around HIV and promote safe sex education. While studying law at the University of Botswana, Matsheng met Noam Angrist, an American researcher studying HIV transmission. Together, they co-founded the nonprofit Youth Impact, seeking to turn research into on-the-ground impact.

Angrist had learned of a program in Kenya where safe sex classes lowered rates of teen pregnancy. Wondering why similar ideas weren’t implemented more widely, Angrist and Matsheng designed a large-scale randomized trial in Botswana high schools. Rather than promote abstinence, they educated students on safe sex practices, the risks of “sugar daddies,” and destigmatized discussing HIV. The results were clear: peer-led safe sex education was incredibly effective.

Noam Angrist

Now, Youth Impact runs programs in more than half of Botswana’s primary schools, reaching over 100,000 youth. Beyond safe sex education, they also improve literacy and numeracy skills. Recent expansions have brought their program to Namibia, South Africa and the Philippines. As Angrist emphasizes, the organization bridges the gap between research and action, ensuring evidence can guide impact.

Over a decade since its start, Youth Impact continues working to honor the memory of Matsheng’s late mother and combat the ongoing HIV epidemic. Their perseverance stems from a firm belief that open communication and research-backed solutions can overcome even the most devastating diseases.

Read the full article in Vox.

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