Promoting Healthier Behavior
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)
‘WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?’
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
“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
“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
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)
YOUTH BATTLE STIS IN VIRTUAL UNIVERSE
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
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.