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HomeHealth & MedicineMake it Normal: Open, no holds barred conversations about sexual health result...

Make it Normal: Open, no holds barred conversations about sexual health result in an increased uptake of HIV prevention services

Johannesburg, 29 July 2022 – The 24th International AIDS Conference, the world’s largest HIV/AIDS conference, is taking place in Montreal, Canada and virtually from the 29th of July to the 2nd of August. At this conference, leading scientists, policy makers, and activists from around the world come together to discuss policies and lessons learned through research and programs aimed at ending the HIV epidemic. At this year’s conference, one of South Africa’s representatives is Shout-It-Now, a local non-profit company (NPC) that empowers youth to own their sexuality. Shout-It-Now was selected for its original and highly effective “Mo’ghel, get your life pack” multi-media campaign, within the conference’s “social and behavioural science” track.

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If you’re young, female and South African – it’s taboo to talk openly about sex or relationships. Not because you don’t want to, but because it’s not “normal”.

Normal is our comfort zone, and South African women are expected not to speak about sexuality or their relationships so that others don’t feel uncomfortable. It’s no surprise that so many questions remain unanswered and so many battles against HIV/AIDS are lost due to a lack of knowledge.

Shout-It-Now believes young people should feel comfortable talking about sex and their sexuality, including sexual health, particularly in a country that accounts for 19% of the global HIV burden. Shout-It-Now is proving that with the right conversations, perceptions of what is normal can change and significantly influence behaviours when it comes to HIV – and the organisation is now showcasing this on the global stage.

Shout-It-Now’s multi-media campaign ran for 6 weeks from August to October 2021. It reached over 3 million people and resulted in a nearly 7-fold increase in HIV testing and a 44% increase in the uptake of the HIV prevention pill, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), amongst Shout-It-Now’s target audience of 20 – 24-year-old females.

For the campaign to make an impact on the intended population it needed to be relatable, with services that were easily understood and valued. Using youthful, and a shade ‘colourful’, vernacular across print media, youth radio broadcasts, podcasts and social media influencers, the campaign gave young women a platform to ask questions about their sexuality in a safe and non-judgemental environment.

This approach included the campaign name. “Mo’ghel” is a term for a young woman, while “get your life pack” plays on the colloquial “get your life back” phrase. The campaign promoted a free pack of HIV prevention and sexual health services from Shout-It-Now that empowered youth to take control of their health and their future.

 

“Young women in South Africa are discouraged by society from speaking openly about sex and relationships,” says Zonja Penzhorn, Head of Marketing at Shout-It-Now. “They are routinely judged, forced to cover up their bodies and made to feel ashamed about wanting to have these discussions. This is precisely why our campaign focused on normalising these sexual conversations.”

“Instead of simply telling young women to get tested for HIV and take PrEP, we tapped into their biggest turn-on, their biggest desires: to improve their sex life, to have relationships free of judgement and risks, and to have the freedom to live life the way they choose. Shout-It-Now’s value proposition was a free pack of services to help them do just that,” says Penzhorn. “The campaign exceeded our expectations both in awareness and service uptake, which is proof that with the right message and service delivery, you can significantly improve health-seeking behaviours among highly vulnerable populations.”

The background, methods, results and analysis of the “Mo’ghel, get your life pack” campaign was designed into a digital poster that Shout-It-Now will present and discuss at the 24th International AIDS Conference.

“We’re incredibly proud of the results we achieved in just six weeks, made all the more significant by our invitation to share our success with other colleagues from around the world at AIDS 2022. What better place to highlight South Africa’s efforts to combat HIV and AIDS than this united, global congress. We passionately believe that normalising sexual health conversations increases HIV prevention demand in young women and that this is an approach that can be adapted by others working with this population. We want people to join the conversation and normalise the conversation, so that vulnerable young women have the chance to be the future HIV-negative generation,” says Penzhorn.

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