An innovative approach to HIV prevention for youth

The Embassy of the United States of America has introduced a relatively new HIV preventive tool among youth in Botswana; an innovative feature film that also contains animated sequences showing how the virus circulates through the human body at different stages of infection. The film; Inside Story, will be distributed in secondary schools around the country in an effort to counter HIV message fatigue.

US Embassy Charge d’ Affairs, Michael Murphy said since prevention is the cornerstone of the battle against the HIV/AIDS epidemic, successful programs require a combination of evidence-based and mutually reinforcing interventions. “This film, the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, highlights the importance of preventing the spread of the disease especially among people who are most vulnerable to infection.” he said

He said the film aims to educate and engage young African audiences in a healthy, honest dialogue on HIV infection, to motivate informed health decisions, encourage youth to take responsibility for their health and combat negative stereotypes about living with HIV that may prevent people from seeking treatment.

“A film like Inside Story allows us to communicate basic facts about HIV transmission and dispel the stigma of HIV in a way that speaks with youth rather than at them. It is designed to start frank conversations with youth and encourage them to ask questions in a forum that may have not been available to them in the past,” he said.

Inside Story tells a tale of a young Kenyan man who have dreams of playing professional soccer. His life changes when he gets an offer to play in South Africa and gets exposed to HIV on the same day after engaging in unprotected sex.

“We need programs such as this one. Programs that utilise communication channels that our society can easily relate to. The majority of our young people like football and this has been evidenced during the just ended African Youth Games. With the World Cup here, it is good that we use football as a channel of communication to bring about behaviour change,” said National AIDS Coordinating Agency (NACA) Deputy National Coordinator, Fraser Tlhoiwe.

He said the HIV and AIDS epidemic still remains the most critical development challenge in Botswana history, thus innovation, intensifying and scaling up prevention interventions is needed.

The film was launched in Botswana last week and is also being distributed across the world. It is expected to reach over 300 million people.