Radio, Sporting Events and Adult Cinemas Used for AIDS Education Efforts in Africa
In Africa, where knowledge about HIV transmission is low and the stigma attached to the virus is high, public health officials and AIDS experts are trying a variety of AIDS education methods that include radio programs, sporting events and even adult cinemas. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to 75% of the 40 million people infected with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Because only one in 1,440 African AIDS patients has access to antiretroviral drugs, HIV prevention efforts "may be the best hope" for the continent, Reuters Health reports (Mundell, Reuters Health, 1/21). Educators are also trying to lessen the stigma of HIV/AIDS, which is especially high in rural areas of Africa (Pitman, Associated Press, 1/21).
On an African Radio
Several countries have incorporated HIV/AIDS messages or plotlines into popular radio broadcasts, figuring that listeners "prefer the spice of romantic drama over stale lectures on HIV/AIDS." A Botswanan radio program that debuted in August 2001 delivers AIDS messages in the context of a soap opera-style drama that features "suspenseful but credible stories and characters," Dr. Christine Galavotti of the CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion said. A similar radio drama is also broadcast in Tanzania, and Ethiopia is slated to begin broadcasting its own radio program in March. Galavotti is helping establish a similar program in Zimbabwe, where nearly two-thirds of adults and young people say they listen to the country's main radio station at least once per week. The radio programs in all of the countries are written and produced locally, and some AIDS experts say that the AIDS messages are getting through to audiences. Dr. William Ryerson, president of the Population Media Center, said that 82% of those who listened to the Tanzanian program said the show "caused them to adopt monogamy or use condoms to avoid AIDS." Condom distribution increased 153% in the areas of Tanzania where the drama was broadcast, but condom distribution rose by only 16% in areas of the country where listeners heard government-sponsored anti-AIDS ads. The dramas' long-term effectiveness has yet to be determined, Reuters Health reports (Reuters Health, 1/21).
In Daloa, Ivory Coast, educators have chosen a different artistic venue for AIDS messages: adult cinemas. Brou Barthelemi Saoure, a local Red Cross official, is canvassing adult theaters and trying to convince theater owners to let him hold AIDS discussions in conjunction with some adult films. Saoure said that many men visit prostitutes after watching adult movies, and he wants to tell them that "if they're going to try to do what they do in the films, then they have to protect themselves." At one theater in Daloa, Saoure gave a half-hour presentation on the dangers of AIDS, passed out condoms and played an AIDS education video. For moviegoers who attended the lecture, the entrance fee was waived. The HIV infection rate in Ivory Coast is approximately 10% for people ages 15 to 49, and Saoure hopes to bring his lectures to adult theaters across the country (Associated Press, 1/21).
Sporting AIDS Education
During the "African Cup of Nations" -- the continent-wide soccer tournament that is Africa's largest sporting event -- soccer players from four countries will speak about HIV/AIDS in an effort to reach "as many young men as possible," Reuters Health reports. In the "Play for Life" campaign, players from Mali, Nigeria, Ghana and Burkina Faso will speak about personal "game plans" that outline their lifestyle choices, which could include condom use, abstinence or monogamy. In addition, the team members will be available for interviews, personal appearances and radio and television commercials that address AIDS prevention issues. Organizers hope that the AIDS messages will reach millions of young African men, many of whom "have not taken even the most basic steps to reduce their risk of contracting HIV," Reuters Health reports. "Since soccer is so popular in Africa, it is possible to reach a wide audience of young men with a campaign such as this," Kim Martin, a spokesperson for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs, said. JHU/CCP has joined with local nongovernmental agencies and international donors, including USAID, to organize the event. The campaign is the latest in the Caring Understanding Partners program, which uses sporting events to disseminate AIDS information. The African Cup will be held from Jan. 19 to Feb. 7 (Mozes, Reuters Health, 1/22).