Lifeline was established in 2003, in response to increasing suicide rates due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. At the time, the option for remote counselling was non-existent, and the problem of HIV/AIDS-related stigma significant. This combined with widespread misinformation about HIV/AIDS made it difficult for individuals to seek accurate information and get necessary help. Lifeline got its start as a suicide prevention hotline and expanded its issue areas as the needs of the Zambian population evolved, and more was learned about the drivers of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In Zambia, gender-based violence is often a risk-factor for HIV/AIDS transmission, and one that is difficult for women and men to discuss in person (this was especially true during the early days of the epidemic). As a result, Lifeline focused its counselling efforts on gender-based violence prevention and directing cases of abuse to the relevant government authorities. Over time, the topics covered by Lifeline counsellors continued to expand to meet the changing psycho-social support needs of our callers.
Since its inception, Lifeline has provided lifesaving counselling services to hundreds of thousands of individuals and continues to answer hundreds of calls per day.
Childline was added to Lifeline’s call-centre in 2011, following an observed need for a helpline capable of addressing the needs of children in Zambia. The Government solicited proposals from organizations interested in providing the service, and Lifeline, together with Plan International, and Save the Children were successful in putting together a winning bid, securing the addition of the toll-free 116 line to the call-centre.