South Africa

Photo by Pathfinder International

Since 1996, Pathfinder has implemented a broad range of sexual and reproductive health programs in South Africa. Today, we are striving to meet the needs of particularly underserved populations, including young people.

Photo by Pathfinder South Africa

The need is urgent. Among young women aged 15-24, 13.6 percent are infected with HIV compared to 4.5 percent of young men in that same age group.

Photo by Pathfinder South Africa

So Pathfinder is taking action. We are collaborating with local partners to ensure young South Africans have access to quality, integrated services, tailored to meet their specific sexual and reproductive health needs.

Photo by Pathfinder South Africa

This means that services stress the importance of privacy. Providers are trained to respect youth and their decisions, and services are delivered in an accepting environment, free from stigma or discrimination.

Photo by Pathfinder South Africa

Here, Sister Dorcas, a nurse provider at our youth friendly site is doing a condom demonstration. She provides all the clinical services at the site including counseling and testing for HIV.

Pathfinder International works in South Africa on a range of health issues—from HIV prevention and treatment to the provision of comprehensive abortion care—with special focus on ensuring that services are youth friendly.

Why Pathfinder Works in South Africa

With a population of over 50 million people, South Africa has the fourth-largest population in sub-Saharan African. It is also a country suffering from a devastating HIV and AIDS epidemic, in which heterosexual sex is the predominant mode of HIV transmission, followed by mother-to-child transmission. Today, HIV prevalence is 17.8 percent, with young people and women bearing the burden of infection across South Africa's nine provinces. And while people are generally knowledgeable about HIV prevention, the high incidence and prevalence rate indicate a significant need for more effective evidence-based strategies-particularly those that target young people.

Since 1996, Pathfinder has worked in South Africa, implementing a broad range of programs and building relationships with community groups and district and provincial departments of the government. Today, Pathfinder focuses on contributing to the reduction of HIV infection rates of South African youth aged 15-24 years and reducing mother-to-child transmission among young HIV-positive mothers. Our interventions promote the adoption of safer sex practices and guarantee accessibility to quality, integrated services delivered in a social environment that is free of stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV. Pathfinder's approach to youth-friendly services stresses the importance of privacy, respect for youth and their decisions, and establishing an accepting environment for young people. This includes promoting consistent condom use and prompt treatment for STIs and limiting the number of sexual partners, while also addressing the contextual factors that make it difficult for young people to implement behavior change, such as gender relations and cultural norms.

Among young women aged 15-24, 13.6 percent are infected with HIV compared to 4.5 percent of young men in that same age group. Evidence for Decision-Making

A key aspect of Pathfinder's approach to systems' strengthening is collecting evidence that enables public, private, and community partners to make informed health-related decisions. In South Africa, examples of the kinds of evidence we collect to range from "the number of antenatal care clients aged 10-24 receiving their first test to determine CD4 levels" and "the number of advocacy activities conducted for comprehensive, safe abortion services" to "the number of HIV-exposed infants born to clients aged 10-24 who were given Nevirapine within 72 hours after birth." Some illustrative data from Pathfinder's work in South Africa suggests that in the first two years of a five-year program to strengthen and expand comprehensive HIV and AIDS prevention program funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • 100 percent of abortion clients accepted a family planning method after receiving services
  • 1,492 women and girls aged 10-24 were counseled and tested for HIV at their first antenatal care visit
  • 6,380 HIV-positive individuals between the ages of 10-24 years were reached and supported through evidence-based individual or small group-level interventions

Building Capacity, Strengthening Systems

Pathfinder aims to leave behind systems, and structures that are institutionally, programmatically, and financially sustainable. For example, in South Africa, Pathfinder:

  • Builds the capacity of public sector service providers, facility managers, peer educators, and organizations working at the community level around health facilities for better service delivery in our project intervention areas.
  • Provides training to service providers and peer educators on technical subject matters such as HIV and AIDS management, provision of quality services, monitoring and evaluation workshops, mentoring, and facilitation skills.
  • Implements skills transfer initiatives that ensure more effective service delivery and staff competencies among services providers and community health workers.
  • Mobilizes a broad base of young people, youth groups, youth centers, HIV and AIDS support groups, local youth-focused NGOs, and traditional and community leaders, to promote youth-friendly health services.

Watch to see Pathfinder's work in action in the Dukuza Clinic of South Africa:

The Dukuza Clinic: Providing Care for Young Mothers in South Africa


In South Africa, Pathfinder International focuses on contributing to the reduction of HIV infection rates of South African youth and reducing mother-to-child transmission among young HIV-positive mothers. Your gift of $25 or $50 to is critical to ensuring that our work can continue.

Our Projects

HIV and AIDS Prevention in South Africa

Support for Strengthening and Expanding Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Care Project

Systems Strengthening Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Adolescent and Youth Sexual and Reproductive Health Maternal & Newborn Health HIV & AIDS

PAST PROJECT: In South Africa, Pathfinder promotes the adoption of safe sex practices while increasing access to quality, integrated, and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services.

Related Publications

July 2015

Introducing Youth-friendly Prevention Of Mother-to-child Transmission Services To Public-sector Clinics To Better Address The Needs Of Youth In South Africa

Recognizing the need to better address prevention of mother-to-child transmission among this population (including access, early antenatal care bookings, adherence), Pathfinder expanded its programmatic portfolio to include capacity building for youth-friendly PMTCT services within public-sector clinics.

December 2013

The Way We Live: Advancing Health & Rights Through Integration

In a year of remarkable achievement, including Pathfinder’s landmark victory at the US Supreme Court and our return to Bangladesh with a $53.8 million project, what was most exciting? The answer—integration—is the theme of Pathfinder’s 2013 Annual Report.

June 2013

Securing Equitable Access to Comprehensive Abortion Care in South Africa: Technical Update

This technical update discusses Pathfinder South Africa’s experience supporting youth-friendly comprehensive abortion care service delivery in public sector facilities, providing recommendations for future such efforts.

May 2013

Strengthening Community and Health Systems for Quality PMTCT: Applications in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia

This technical brief discusses PMTCT implementation experience in four African countries, providing recommendations for future efforts to more holistically advance improved PMTCT outcomes in resource-limited settings.

Related News

Pathfinder Joins World in Mourning the Loss of Visionary Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Pathfinder joins the world in mourning the loss of a visionary, leader, ally, and friend—Nelson Mandela. Mandela, who passed away on December 5, 2013, was formerly the President of South Africa, a Nobel Peace Laureate, and a champion of human rights.

The Dukuza Clinic: Providing Care for Young Mothers in South Africa

Paige Claassen shares photos and stories from her visit to Dukuza, a youth-friendly, Pathfinder-supported clinic that serves young mothers in South Africa.

Here, a staff of only three nurses deliver babies, provide AIDS testing and counseling, educate patients about family planning, and care for TB, diabetic, epileptic, and trauma patients, among a long list of other tasks. Dukuza serves between 100 and 200 patients each day, and with the current AIDS epidemic, pressure on the clinic to serve more patients grows.

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