PSI Airs Condom TV Ads With HIV Prevention Message During World Cup Broadcasts in Myanmar, PRI’s ‘The World’ Reports
PRI's "The World" -- a production of BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston -- on Friday included an interview with Sam Connor, marketing director for Population Services International in Myanmar, where the organization aired television advertisements during World Cup soccer broadcasts advocating the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV (Mullins, "The World," PRI, 7/7). Myanmar is one of the countries most affected by HIV/AIDS in Asia. The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in August 2005 announced a suspension of its grants to Myanmar, citing travel and other restrictions implemented by the country's government that impede the delivery of medical supplies and services. The fund in 2004 pledged to spend $98 million over five years to fight the three diseases in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/3). According to Connor, the condom ads featured a goalkeeping lizard, a "playful, non-threatening character" that is a cultural icon. Using the lizard allowed PSI's ads to "get in, even through the censorship," with a simple message of HIV prevention and provided a "funny way to break down the fear and discrimination and stigma about even talking about condoms in the culture," Connor added. Connor said the social marketing PSI uses in Myanmar is an example of the company's strategy to create "brands that resonate in the local culture and are popular" because they use popular icons and proverbs. Using characters and sayings that are well known can increase the possibility that the target audience will use the product and change its behavior, according to Connor. However, Connor said that it has been difficult for PSI, which supplies about 75% of all condoms available in Myanmar and aired its first TV ad last year, to work in the country because of "many, many levels of censorship" ("The World," PRI, 7/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.