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Simul8 – Shout It Now

Read about how ScotlandIS member, Simul8, partnered with non-profit Shout It Now, using their software to help combat the current AIDS epidemic in South Africa.

South Africa has the largest population of people living with HIV in the world, with one in five people living with the virus. Close to 200 young women become HIV positive every day. Meanwhile, one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence, and eight women report gender-based violence every hour.

Shout-It-Now (Shout) is a NPO providing HIV prevention, sexual and reproductive health, and gender-based violence support services to communities in South Africa. It turned to Glasgow-based technology company Simul8 for help in maximising its resources to be able to reach more vulnerable young women.

In just three months since implementation in October 2022, Shout has documented the following results thanks to pro bono support from Simul8:

  • A 44% increase in clients being tested for HIV
  • A 27% increase in at-risk clients being initiated onto PrEP (the HIV prevention pill)
  • A 30% increase in the number of gender-based violence victims they were able to support
Who is Shout it Now and what do they do?

To prevent HIV infections and support those who are living with HIV, Shout brings a range of free, friendly health services to hard-to-reach communities. These include HIV testing, PrEP (the HIV prevention pill), STI screening, contraception, gender-based violence prevention and counselling, as well as educational life skills programs. The service is delivered via a range of mobile healthcare vehicles, staffed by nurses, social workers and specialist health advisors, as well as a support team that travel into communities every day to deliver the vital services where they are most needed.

How Simul8’s pro bono support has been delivered

Simul8’s simulation software has been developed to enable organisations to make faster, more informed decisions every day. Through the software, users can model business processes before running simulations that will test the impact of alternative decisions, adaptations, and reconfigurations in a virtual space before implementing the most effective solution in the real world.

In addition to the free software, Simul8’s consultants offered their time to work with the operations team at Shout to remodel their services and optimise delivery. Using the technology, the team has been able to plan the effective distribution of resources, including people, skills, equipment and scheduling. 

Andrew Wylie, Simul8 consultant on the project, said: “The ability to use the power of simulation to improve services, as the results have shown, has given me an immense sense of pride. Seeing the real-world impacts of what the model has done in conjunction with Shout It Now, the feeling is indescribable on how happy it has made me. The experience was rewarding and hammered home the importance of what we do, and the ability simulation has to help NPOs like Shout It Now.”

The impact

Shout has not only been able to increase the number of people that it can see each day, it has been able to reduce waiting times, maximise the time that its team are able to spend one-on-one with clients, and improve working conditions for staff.

Buhle Sithole, quality assurance officer at Shout it Now, explained: “The simulation project has given us the benefit of time, and when you give people more time, you give them the opportunity to make the right choices. If waiting times are too long, for example, the embarrassment or stigma around sexual health for young people in South Africa often meant clients would leave rather than wait to be seen. This could mean that they would not receive emergency contraception or vital support.”

Shout understands the importance of building trust with clients so that they can feel safe and comfortable to open up, and this requires adequate one-on-one time with each appointment as well. Using Simul8’s model, the Shout team were able to optimise the service so that there were enough resources to be able to offer the highest level of support needed by these vulnerable groups.

Buhle continued: “We want to run our clinics more like a premium shopping experience. When you walk in, staff will start the conversation with a smile and give that person their full attention. It’s about making someone feel important and building a connection. This focus on improving the client experience is essential in encouraging more young women to use the service, share with their peers, and make repeat visits.”

This project has also positively impacted the wellbeing of the volunteers and healthcare professionals that work for the NPO, who often face emotionally challenging situations. By optimising operations, the workforce is now able to manage the workload better and even take a break for lunch, which was not always possible before.

William Taylor, head of operations at Shout, said: “Our mobile care and support facilities are designed to make our service private, comfortable and welcoming, and all completely free. But this is also about so much more than just a medical testing and treatment programme. We very actively provide prevention services in the communities we visit, talking to both young women and men to promote healthy behaviours and healthy lifestyle choices, as well as normalise conversations around sex and relationships.

“Of course, it’s a huge task with limited financial resources, so our approach is to combine global best practices with tech-driven innovations, so we can make a meaningful and measurable impact on HIV prevention in South Africa. This is where we came into partnership with Simul8.”

Laura Reid, CEO at Simul8, said: “We’re fortunate in the West where we have relatively generous resources to diagnose and treat people with HIV. When we heard about Shout it Now’s efforts to tackle this epidemic in South Africa, in communities that are far less fortunate, we felt a real responsibility to offer our support. We’re so happy that our technology is being used to make a difference to the young women accessing these essential services.”

Simul8 recently featured on the BBC radio programme Tech Life discussing the project, and how technology can have a positive impact on the wider world. You can listen to the episode here (skip to 15:50).

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