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

Posted by acroanmph in Global Health.
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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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