Early results confirm success for Durex-backed HIV/AIDS prevention model
Five million people were newly infected with HIV/AIDS last year and half of the new HIV infections around the world are to people under the age of 25. Now, young people in Brazil are being encouraged to take action themselves and help prevent their peers becoming part of these frightening statistics.
The Durex-backed project, Program H, has been operating in two of Brazil’s lowest income areas for the past 12 months, creating a successful social marketing model with the potential to be used in similar high risk areas all over the world. Early indications suggest that this bold corporate intervention is working in the battle against one of the biggest threats to global social stability.
Program H is currently being put into practice by young men in the Bangu and Mare regions of Rio de Janeiro. Ongoing evaluation is critical to the whole initiative and the second stage of research results is to be announced to the world at a press conference in the Brazilian capital in April.
Program H was launched following extensive work within the communities themselves to understand the views and concerns of the people most involved. The programme has been tailored totally to addressing these needs and the first post launch phase of research carried out among the young men has demonstrated a significant increase in condom awareness and usage among its target section of the community – young men between the ages of 15 and 24.
The primary goal of Program H is to encourage these young men to take responsibility for their own health and to promote gender equity. Research carried out at the start of the project showed that it is generally young men who decide and control how, and when, sexual activity occurs.
Peter Roach of SSL International explains the concept of gender equitable relationships: “Program H aims to encourage young men to be respectful in their relationships with women, to believe in equal rights, to be involved fathers, not to use violence against women, to assume responsibility for sexual and reproductive health, and to seek health services or advice when necessary.
“As it sounds, that’s a huge task, but all these things revolve around a change in attitude and behaviour and can be addressed with clear and targeted communication from those at the heart of the problem. That’s what Program H aims to do.”
A crucial element of Program H has been the creation of the Hora H condom brand. The program enlists the help of young men from the existing Guy-to-Guy project run by Instituto Promundo who have been trained, through Program H, to engage their peers on core issues.
The 16 young men have taken responsibility for the project and even came up with the name Hora H – translated as, In the Heat of the Moment. They worked with a design company to produce a logo, packaging and a re-working of the instructions on the packet to better suit the language of the 15-24-year-old target age group. In short, those that perhaps knew most about one of the biggest issues in their own backyards, were being given the opportunity to do something about it.
With the help of the young promoters, point-of-sale and advertising materials were created and sales targets were established. Concerts and funk parties provided typical promotional events and a media campaign was also put in place.
Six months after the launch of Hora H, research showed a positive 40 per cent increase in awareness of the brand and a growth of 20 per cent of people using it among the target age group. Knowledge of the name and packaging were given as major reasons for using Hora H.
“It’s an almighty undertaking against a background of scepticism, but there’s a desire from these young people to make it work. That’s got to be worth pursuing,” added Roach.
In addition to the creation of the condom brand, Program H provides materials to allow community and youth groups to run workshops designed to promote attitude change. These materials include manuals and videos, together with training on their use for health professionals, educators and youth leaders.
Workshops allow the focus to be kept on all aspects of gender responsibility. With more statistics showing that 25 per cent of pregnancies in Latin America are to teenage mothers, and that 80,000 young women die of unsafe abortions each year across the world, HIV/AIDS is just one of a number of issues targeted by Program H. ENDS
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