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A Little More Shuga, Please March 22, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Global Health.
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HIV/AIDS Kenya Shuga Family Planning

HIV prevalence by African country

One of the most effective public health education tools to combat HIV/AIDS in Kenya is back. Last month, the popular TV program Shuga began airing it’s second season.

Three episodes were funded for the first season through MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation and other funding partners, but demand has landed six new episodes this season. PATH joined with other sponsors PEPFAR and UNICEF to bring this meaningful tool to Nairobi. And since it’s rights-cleared, it will air on all five major broadcast companies throughout Kenya.

In addition to teaching safe sex and HIV transmission methods, this season of Shuga: Love, Sex and Money addresses alcohol use, transactional sex, rape and homosexuality. This was an important part of their sexual behavior communication plan, as it is still illegal to be gay in Africa.

What makes the show so popular?

It’s steamy hot, which, for all intents and purposes, is unchartered programming territory for the 16-24 year old Kenyan target group. It’s sexy, fun, and relatable.

What makes the show so successful?

It’s changing behaviors and saving lives. Read here about reaching young adults who had little to no access to TV or internet in 2009. Between 60% and 80% of all viewers were more receptive to this teaching tool for behavior change. About the new season, from The Saturday Post Zambia,

The documentary addresses social and economic factors that contribute to the high HIV prevalence and new infection rates, particularly among young people, in Sub-Saharan Africa and the world. The film resonates with young people. The main [goal] is to increase knowledge and start a debate about HIV among young people so that they don’t get infected. It aims to encourage behaviour change to prevent new infections.

The secondary phase is to remind people that HIV is not a death sentence. People can live positively with HIV. The campaign is an explosive drama shot and produced in Kenya that challenges young people to ignite a movement to change their sexual behaviour and turn their norms to stop the spread of the killer disease specifically in Kenya, Trinidad, Ukraine and Zambia.

Take a look at the Season 2 trailer:

Shuga: Love, Sex, Money Still To Come… from mtv staying alive on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Sesame Square, Kami and Shuga Battle HIV

MTV Shuga

MTV Staying Alive Foundation

PATH: A Catalyst for Global Health

STDs, Matchmaking, and Online Health May 10, 2011

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Your health online

More people seek answers to health questions online than from a physician. It’s no surprise, really. If you or someone you care about may be afflicted with a health condition, why wait for an appointment and make your co-pay when you can instantly get answers from trusted medical sites for free? Today, 83% of online users have consulted the Internet regarding health issues – especially sexual health. Another reason: anonymity.

According to a CNN report from last October, three of the top five health searches are pregnancy, herpes, and STD. Frequently these searches are conducted from cell phones for reasons you can probably guess (often beginning with poor planning and ending in panic).

But that isn’t the only change in online health and lifestyle. The CDC states that each year there are 19,000,000 new cases of STDs in the U.S. That’s right: 19 M. Over one million of these have joined http://www.herpesmingle.com, a site devoted to matching infected people with other infected people. There are other disease-specific matchmaking sites, of course, each with their own quickly growing user base.

Regular testing every few months can detect a re-infection of chlamydia or gonorrhea. But many of today’s STDs evolve into new strains. Management of one strain will not treat or protect against a new strain. Re-infection incidence is likely to rise in correlation with the increased use of STD dating sites.

Achievable risk-reduction goals have been set and do tend to influence behavior. In addition to prevention counseling about STD/HIV, abstinence and partner management, pre-exposure vaccines for two types of human papillomavirus (HPV) are available to prevent the virus that causes cervical cancer and genital warts. A Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all unvaccinated, uninfected persons undergoing disease evaluation.

This video has shown to change behavior and prompt discussion of STD prevention with partners when shown in testing clinics:

Disease rates and evolution can be curtailed with extensive public health outreach. Find a local testing site here. STDs are preventable!

Malawi: Hardest Hit by HIV April 12, 2011

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Malawi HIV/AIDS prevention campaign

In the sub-Saharan inland country of Malawi, one million of its population of 14 million are infected with HIV/AIDS, the primary cause of life expectancy being only 43 years.

Additionally, over two million orphaned children lost both parents to AIDS and have become a burden to the country for basic needs and education. Orphanages feed whoever shows up, often 2,500 children each day at each site.

Being the fourth poorest country in the world, this agricultural subsistence population suffers from the deadly loop of poverty-disease-poverty. The constant struggle is for Malawians to stay healthy enough to go to school or work the fields, but most people are too sick to work or must care for sick family members.

Malawi, Africa

Between 1985 and 1993, HIV prevalence increased in women over the age of 15 from 2% to 30%. President Banda ruled for 30 years and refused to acknowledge the disease or help prevent it through education. In 1994, President Muluzi took office and put HIV at the top of his agenda including a more liberal climate making discussions about disease prevention more likely without the fear of persecution. By 2002, 70% of hospital deaths were due to HIV/AIDS or related opportunistic infection.

The prevalence rate hovers at 11%(rural) -17% (urban), whereas the global average is 1%. However, a world-wide response to Malawi’s condition has resulted in financial assistance, increasing the availability of testing, counseling, and antiretroviral drugs with an emphasis on reducing mother-to-child transmission.

Madonna founded RaisingMalawi.org in 2006 to aid the vast number of orphans with obtaining food and nutrients to avert severe malnutrition, skills training and education, and medication. Here is how one orphanage is coping:

One Love, a campaign established through the Pakachere Institute of Health and Development Communication, addresses in 10 African nations the harmful aspects of multiple sexual partners. The National Strategic Framework (NSF) has implemented several prevention and care programs, a National AIDS Policy was established, and today it is illegal to knowingly transmit the virus.

An increase in prevention education, funding, training, (healthy) human resources, transportation to and from medical facilities are still required in Malawi to decrease disease prevalence.

Sesame Square, Kami & Shuga Battle HIV February 16, 2011

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Sesame Square educates young Nigerians about HIV.

Combatting cultural beliefs, and to some extent customs, has been a major hurdle for public health workers educating African villagers about the prevention and spread of HIV.

Entertainment is proving to be one avenue for change, and not among adults. Kami, the newest Muppet from Sesame Square (the Nigerian version of Sesame Street), represents one of the 1.2 million AIDS-orphaned, HIV-positive African children. She’s a five-year-old who contracted the disease as an infant from a blood transfusion.  The show was created specifically for the two- to four-year-old Nigerian audience, taking into account many of the widely held Muslim cultural norms.  In addition to its regular educational programming, the show addresses not how HIV is contracted, but ways it affects Kami daily, and related medical care.

MTV’s Shuga, from the Staying Alive Foundation, targets this issue among 16-24 year olds. The three-part dramatic series follows a group of students in Nairobi and is definitely not squeamish about addressing disease transmission. Funding efforts continue to produce a second series.

In order to reach teens with no TV or Internet access, information about the events and facilities airing the show was texted, social-networked, and short clips were included which could be viewed on cell phones. At these venues mobile HIV-testing was available. Cell phone use in sub-Saharan Africa is quickly growing, with 350 million in use as of 2008.

The younger audience seems more receptive to the behavior change necessary to reduce the spread of HIV. Sixty percent of youth watched the shows and most retained an understanding of the message. One reason the shows are popular is because they use local producers, writers and actors. Now this is healthy.

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