South African Program Brings AIDS Prevention Messages to Young People Through Frank Discussions of Sex
Delegates attending the U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS said that AIDS prevention programs in Africa could possibly be modeled after a South African effort that uses billboards and other media outlets to spread prevention messages to young people, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Called loveLife, the program aims to promote discussion among young people about sex and AIDS through messages on billboards, television and the radio. Designed by South Africans, loveLife is a joint effort between the Kaiser Family Foundation, the South African government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The program engages in "overt discussions of sexuality" on the radio and television and at sporting events to engage teens in a dialogue on the issue (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/27). It also distributes pamphlets describing how to feel sexual pleasure "in a healthy way" through activities that pose a low risk of acquiring STDs, such as masturbation or Tantric sex, a spiritual type of intercourse (Sithole, Reuters, 6/26). UNAIDS estimates that half of all new HIV infections worldwide occur among people between the ages of 15 and 24 (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/27). And a KFF study found that 20% of South Africans ages 12 to 17 had their first sexual experience at age 12 or younger (Murphy, Baltimore Sun, 6/27). "Young people everywhere are at the epicenter of this epidemic. Clearly programs for youth need to be at the core of a successful prevention strategy," Michael Sinclair, director of South African programs for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said. loveLife, which operates on a five-year, $100 million budget, is garnering interest from countries such as China and Nigeria that hope to employ similar programs (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/27).
Love and Basketball
Another aspect of the loveLife campaign uses the basketball court as a forum for games and AIDS discussion, the Baltimore Sun reports. At the games, coaches "are just as likely to advise players on protecting themselves from STDs as on perfecting lay-up shots," the Sun reports. As an incentive for young people to participate in the program, organizers offer free coaching and court privileges in exchange for participation in sexual health classes and homework study sessions (Baltimore Sun, 6/27). To view a kaisernetwork.org HealthCast of the "Youth Leadership and HIV/AIDS" session that took place at the U.N. General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS, click here. Please note that links are only available to readers of the report's Web version.