Loving life, fighting Aids



Wilma den Hartigh

South Africa’s national youth HIV prevention campaign,  LoveLife, has launched a new initiative to fight the spread of HIV and Aids by building identity and self-worth in young people.

The campaign tag, L2 M3 What’s your formula? (L2 = loving life M3 = making my move), is a slight change of tack from the previous “Make Your Move” initiative. L2 M3 builds on the earlier campaign that encouraged people to take control of their lives and believe in themselves.

“Youth is a time of turbulence for all young people and issues of identity are massive,” said  LoveLife CEO Grace Matlhape. “This is why our starting point is self-worth.”

The new approach puts the spotlight on the absence of belonging and purpose, particularly in the lives of marginalised young people.  “We know that awareness of HIV is high, but young people still put up with risk and we want to address to reduce people’s risk tolerance,” Matlhape said.

The campaign will focus on the way young people perceive their circumstances and how they deal with societal pressures. “Without a sense of future, identity and self-worth, youngsters may have little motivation to protect themselves from infection,” she said in a statement.

One of the main goals of the campaign is to get young people to think about their future and how they plan to achieve their goals. Trina DasGupta, media director for  Lovelife, explained that young people can only do this if they understand their identity. “The formula will address the universal teen feeling of invisibility and the desire for acceptance, as well as provide an alternative to materialism, which is often used today to achieve acknowledgement,” DasGupta said.

HIV/Aids communication programmes in South Africa

Matlhape emphasised that even though a lot of work still needs to be done to bring the pandemic under control, the importance of HIV/Aids communication programmes in South Africa should not be underestimated.

The recent Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) National HIV/Aids survey findings suggest that HIV/Aids communication programmes have helped to highlight the importance of testing, the dangers of risky sexual behaviour and knowledge of HIV.

Of South Africa’s four large-scale ongoing national programmes – LoveLife, Khomanani, Soul City and Soul Buddyz – LoveLife and Soul City had a high reach into the youth age group. In 2008,  LoveLife reached 79.1% of youth aged 15 to 24. Interestingly, although  LoveLife is considered to mainly target the youth, its reach also extended to 71.2% of adults in the 25 to 49 years age group.

The findings also show a slight decrease of HIV prevalence, from 10.3% in 2005 to 8.6% in 2008, among youth between the ages of 15 to 24. This decrease is attributed to a significant increase in condom use among males and females within this age group. It is also believed that HIV communication programmes that reach a large population within this age group may have played a role in HIV education.

Matlhape said that she is encouraged by the survey findings.  “It gives us feedback on how young people are responding to the messages they are receiving and the survey shows a shift in thinking, particularly in young people.”

The 2009  LoveLife media campaign will run for a year. Various media will be used, including television, radio public service announcements, radio programmes on 22 stations nationwide, print, a new-look website, as well as  LoveLife’s mobile social network, www.mymsta.mobi.

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