Friday, March 6, 2009
Sexy new HIV prevention campaign for South African gays
Cape Town, via PlusNews
Dance music pumps from large speakers while a half dozen shirtless young men serve drinks at a bar bathed in pink light. It is the last weekend of Gay Pride in Cape Town, South Africa, and men of all ages have come to a "fetish party" to launch a safe-sex campaign, "Play Nice", targeting men who have sex with men (MSM).
Whether bound in black leather straps or attired in khakis and collared shirts, everyone here is bombarded by projected images of gay men, many nude, carrying messages about HIV, safe sex and treatment; posters with more messages liberally adorn the walls.
The campaign is run by Health4Men, a programme of the Perinatal HIV Research Unit (PHRU) of the Johannesburg-based Witwatersrand University aimed at men in underserved populations, including MSM and unemployed young men, and is the first large-scale campaign specifically geared to get HIV-related messaging to the MSM community.
The MSM community has historically had a very low profile in the HIV/AIDS conversation in Africa, despite having an HIV prevalence rate two to three times higher than the heterosexual population.
Glenn De Swardt, co-director of Health4Men and a leading expert on gay issues in South Africa, said the project could not have come at a better time. "Even though they have the information, they're not practicing safe sex consistently - we know it and they know it - so we're tying to make safe sex messaging sexier."
Using the internet, mobile phone technology, traditional media and direct campaigns, Play Nice hopes to reach various groups of MSM in novel, pro-sex ways that will appeal to them.
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