Global Campaigners Against HIV Increasingly Turning to Digital Media

Digital Content

The 17th International AIDS Conference this week highlighted a host of innovative ways that digital media is being used to get the attention of young people and help protect them against HIV infection.

Globally, 45% of new HIV infections last year occurred among people aged between 15 and 24, according to the United Nations. Youth organisations are now turning to cellphones and the Internet to use social networking groups to spread the word about HIV and educate people about how best to protect themselves from infection.

In Peru, for example, the health department and donor agencies have lent their support to an internet portal called Punto J which offers young people a forum in which they can exchange views, give each other support and advice, and learn about HIV, homophobia and sexual health. The site is managed by young volunteers, who write the text, design the graphics and develop innovative ways to educate fellow Peruvians.

South African Thembi Ngubane described to delegates how she had created a radio diary, recording her experiences of living with HIV from when she first found out about the disease in her quest to become a mother. Her diary was produced and broadcast by US-based National Public Radio, and Ngubane has since taken her radio diary to schools in South Africa.

LoveLife consultant Trina Dasgupta highlighted the HIV awareness programme's new social networking site, which exploits SA's high cellphone penetration and cheap data charges to provide young people with a cellphone based forum in which to exchange views.

Although few South Africans have access to the internet through a computer, three-quarters of South Africans own cellphones, and an increasing proportion are able to connect to the internet, said Dasgupta. "Mobile (phone) internet access in SA is the fourth highest in the world," she said.

LoveLife's MYMsta was more than a chat site, and offered young people a way to obtain information about opportunities such as scholarships and jobs. The idea is that if young people see a future for themselves, they are more likely to protect themselves against HIV, said Dasgupta.

MYMsta was launched in June, and already had close to 6000 users in all nine provinces, she said. Users created their own profile pages, with details of their hopes, dreams and interests, and offered each other advice and support.

MYMsta also encourage users to learn more about HIV by giving them points for taking quizzes, and giving prizes each month - such as a day with a famous DJ.

Business Day