UNFPAState of World Population 2003
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HOME: STATE OF WORLD POPULATION 2003: Promoting Healthier Behavior
State of World Population
Overview of Adolescent Life
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Promoting Healthier Behavior
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Promoting Healthier Behavior

Where Adolescents Get Their Information
Sexuality Education in Schools
Peer Education and Peer Counseling
Reaching Out-of-school Youth
Mass Media, Entertainment and Sports

Mass Media, Entertainment and Sports

Mass media can be used to raise awareness in the policy area, to inform and encourage responsible behaviour and to publicize available services in the community. Programmes use a variety of formats to deliver appropriate messages to targeted segments of the population. Media and entertainment are often effective means to reach adolescents.

Sexto Sentido (Sixth Sense) is a weekly Nicaraguan “social soap opera” that tackles such complex issues as rape, sexuality, substance abuse and domestic violence. Produced by Puntos de Encuentro, a Nicaraguan women’s NGO, Sexto Sentido is the highest-rated television show in its time slot and reaches 80 per cent of 13 to 17 year olds with the message: take control of your life.(55) A nightly radio talk show and youth leadership training further address issues covered in the series.

Also in Nicaragua, governmental agencies and NGOs collaborated on the Juntos Decidimos Cuando (“Together We Decide When”) campaign, aimed at both sexually active and non-sexually active youth and young parents. Radio, television and print messages promoted child spacing, postponing sexual relations and prevention of unwanted pregnancies and STIs. Community singing contests, street theatre, dances and concerts provided venues for local health organizations to provide reproductive health information and counselling. Condoms were distributed at bars, discos and petrol stations. Most young people heard about the campaign, and many reported taking action as a result.(56)

In Zimbabwe, radio programmes, a telephone hotline, dramas, print materials (posters, leaflets and a newsletter) and peer educators informed young people about reproductive health, and led them to adopt less risky behaviours and to attend facilities upgraded to be youth-friendly. The programme also established local youth action committees and built support among parents, teachers and community leaders. The project succeeded in reaching both urban and rural youth, sparking discussion of reproductive health topics between youth and parents, increasing the use of clinics and contraceptives and encouraging sexually active youth to have only one partner.(57)

Other successful media efforts include radio call-in shows in Cambodia, Kenya, Paraguay and Zambia; youth-prepared newspapers in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania; and phone hotlines in Colombia, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines and Uganda.(58) These formats provide confidentiality and can reach large numbers of youth, including those who are illiterate.(59)


HIV/AIDS is spreading faster in Eastern Europe than anywhere else in the world. But sophisticated young people, like many adults, can give any number of reasons for not wearing condoms to protect themselves.

“I’m embarrassed,” admits one toughlooking hipster.

“I like it natural,” says a guy dressed in black with tattoos running up his arm.

“We trust one another,” say young lovers, holding each other close.

Confronting such attitudinal barriers head on is the thrust of a new ad campaign supported by UNFPA and produced by Washington-based Population Services International (PSI).

“What’s your excuse?” is the slogan of the campaign. Its tag line: “There is no excuse. Wear condoms.”

The campaign, aimed at 15-25 year olds, includes ads, posters, T-shirts, television and radio commercials and condom packaging. All use dark, edgy photography and sexy, sombre models. The campaign was launched at a sports and music event at Lake Ada in Belgrade in April, with some 100,000 young people attending, and in Sofia, Bulgaria, in May. It will also reach Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“I do what I want, but I know what I’m doing” is the slogan of another UNFPAsupported campaign to promote safer behaviour among Albanian youth.

Convincing young people to avoid risky sexual behaviour is UNFPA’s priority focus for the region. “Right now the window of opportunity in Eastern Europe is closing and HIV is reaching epidemic proportions,” says Dr. Aleksandar Bodiroza, an adolescent reproductive health and HIV/AIDS specialist for UNFPA. “By focusing on and bringing to scale behaviour change interventions, we may be able to save hundreds of thousands of young lives.” Currently only 40 per cent of in-school and 3 per cent of out-of-school youths in the region are reached by behaviour change programmes.

Marketing campaigns like “What’s Your Excuse?” represent one behaviour change strategy. Peer education—getting trained and credible young people to talk to one another—is another. Making sure that “youth-friendly” reproductive health services are available is the third part of the comprehensive approach that UNFPA supports to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS.See Source

MUSIC AND THEATRE When big-name musicians put their names and talent behind messages about reproductive health, young people listen. Artists against AIDS Worldwide, for example, is a network of musicians dedicated to mobilizing resources to fight AIDS.(60) In Uganda, Hits for Hope attracted audiences of up to 15,000 young people, mostly young men, for a concert series and released a song that was a hit on the country’s three radio stations.(61)

In West Africa, a family planning and AIDS prevention project launched in 1995 promoted a song entitled “Wake Up Africa!”; an evaluation in 1999 found that half of the intended youth audience had heard the song, and one fifth of those reported behaviour change including using condoms or abstaining from sex as a result of the campaign.

Young people in Harare, Zimbabwe, watch “Studio 263”, a television soap opera launched as part of a comprehensive programme to fight HIV/AIDS. The show highlights issues that youth face and promotes abstinence, peer support and delayed sex.(62)

A UNFPA-supported radio soap opera in Jamaica sought to debunk myths, to highlight young people’s vulnerability to HIV and the dangers of casual sex, and to promote condom use and abstinence. The project was reinforced by a telephone hotline and by peer educators who taught young people condom negotiation skills.(63)

In Brazil, the NGO Criar Brasil (Create Brazil) launched a radio programme for adolescents in poor urban neighbourhoods in the country’s interior. In 2001, the programme aired on 1,100 radio stations.(64)

Ashe (an African word referring to one’s inner strength and self-respect) in Jamaica is an NGO that works to build young people’s self-esteem so they are empowered to make the right choices for themselves. It has performed “Vibes in a World of Sexuality”, its play about personal development through peer education around the island and the world.(65) Ashe’s performance challenges cultural taboos against discussions of sexuality among young people.

NEW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES Interactive computer programmes and the Internet appeal to young people and provide a confidential means to obtain information, and in some cases to provide counselling. While this technology is not yet widely available everywhere in the developing world, its use is increasing in many adolescent sexual and reproductive health programmes.

Western Hemisphere Region affiliates of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) have used cyber centres, web sites, interactive multimedia CD-ROM programmes and e-mail counselling services. In Chile, a CD-ROM focuses on male roles and gender-based violence. In El Salvador, a cyber centre offers low-cost Internet access. In Guatemala, microchip technology was used to create a virtual baby adoption programme, “Baby Think It Over”, that teaches the burden of parenthood.(66)

An evaluation of activities in Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru found these technologies were effective in informing urban middle-class young people about sexual and reproductive health and in changing attitudes about gender roles, but had less impact among other groups with greater information and counselling needs. It recommended linking the technology to service opportunities and involving youth in designing activities.(67)

In 2002, young women from around the world participated in an online discussion about HIV/AIDS and human rights, organized by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Association for Women’s Rights; the exchange resulted in a booklet, “Act Now: A Resource Guide for Young Women on HIV/AIDS”.(68)

The International Planned Parenthood Federation and the BBC World Service cosponsored “Sexwise”, a web site with information on reproductive and sexual health in 22 languages.(69)

The Dutch National Commission for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development (NCDO) has linked 15-year-old students in schools in Argentina, Lebanon, Macedonia, the Netherlands, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia in a seven-week, Internet-based programme that examines what they know about AIDS and develops responses to the pandemic.(70)

Advocates for Youth and IPPF maintain an Internet site called Youth Shakers as an interactive resource for peer educators throughout the world to exchange ideas, to report on emerging activities and to improve their operations.(71)


An intergalactic war is raging. Your mission as a member of the Earth Confederation is to annihilate the creatures living on Itesius, the planet of sexually transmitted infections. The foe will be exterminated only if you correctly answer a series of questions about the transmission and symptoms of STIs and HIV/AIDS, and how to prevent them.

This is Venerix, a computer game on STIs and HIV/AIDS that has become highly popular among Romanian youth in only a few months. It was created by the Youth for Youth Foundation, established in 1991 to enable young people to adopt healthy lifestyles and responsible behaviour.

Recognizing that young Romanians spend a lot of time navigating the Internet or playing strategy or quest computer games, the foundation created Venerix to supplement its inschool family life education programme, which teaches participants how to communicate with their peers, to make responsible decisions and how to say no, to cope with peer pressure and to use a condom and other contraceptive methods.

To make the game available to as many young people as possible, they put it on a web site, www.venerix.ro, where it can be easily downloaded. The foundation simultaneously launched an intensive game promotion campaign in secondary schools and Internet cafes.

The site is continuously improved to ensure it is dynamic and interactive. A forum and chat for discussions, flash games and a trivia game on sexual and reproductive health have been added. Last year the site attracted some 135,000 visitors.

SPORTS Sports are an important avenue for reaching youth, particularly young men. In Africa, sports organizations started the Caring Understanding Partners Initiative in 1996 to promote STI and HIV/AIDS prevention, family planning and child immunization through organized sports events.(72) Other campaigns, including “Break the Silence: Talk about AIDS” in 1999 in Kenya and “Play for Life” in 2002 in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria, have successfully reached young men with life-saving messages. Sports figures such as football star Ronaldo in Brazil and U.S. basketball player Magic Johnson have played an important role in getting messages about HIV/AIDS to young people.

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