Ivorian soccer stars featured in a TV and radio campaign, giving messages about the importance of couples getting tested for HIV, especially when the woman is expecting a baby.
A media campaign in the Ivory Coast has engaged thousands of men with the issue of protecting children from contracting HIV from their parents.
Ivorian soccer stars Yaya Toure, Alain Gouaméné and Arouna Kone all featured in the TV and radio campaign, giving messages about the importance of couples getting tested for HIV, especially when the woman is expecting a baby.
Mother of two Séka Ngouan, 32, was diagnosed with HIV in 2011 but her husband has never been tested. It is a familiar story. Ngouan said: “When I tell my husband he should get tested, he says, ‘You are a woman, you are the one who gives birth, so you are the one who needs to get tested’.”
In the support group Ngouan attends, most of her friends are experiencing the same situation. Their husbands are not willing to take the test, nor do they want to accompany them to health centres when they are pregnant. “As a result we are going through this process alone and have to lie to midwives when they ask us to come with our husbands,” she said.
Progress slow on prevention transmission of HIV to children
The Ivory Coast is among twenty-two priority countries in the Global Plan to eliminate new HIV infections among children by 2015 and to keep their mothers alive. However its progress score in preventing transmission of HIV from parent to child is very low. According to the country office of the John Hopkins Center for Communication Programs attendance at health centres is still very low and less than 11% of HIV positive pregnant women currently access prevention of mother to child transmission services.
One of the major barriers identified is the lack of involvement of male partners. Due to cultural beliefs about masculinity men are less likely to seek and to use HIV services than women. One of the consequences of this is that women sometimes do not use HIV testing services because their partners instruct them not to do so.
In January, the John Hopkins Center for Communication Programs launched a media campaign in the Ivory Coast to raise men’s awareness about HIV and to invite them to seek services. The campaign lasted one month.
Involving men in health services
The campaign started during the African Cup of Nations held in South Africa and used former and current Ivorian football stars presenting messages, such as: ‘Play your role, do your HIV test’ and ‘Take your test and have a peaceful relationship’. The messages were translated into the main local languages of the country and communicated through the national TV station, radio and through large posters displayed at bus stops and other strategic places throughout the city.
Dr Traoré Régina from the John Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, said: “The objective of this initiative is to help men accept the idea of couple testing and to seek services in order to protect their families, just as women do when they are pregnant. The campaign worked well, and we also used social media, such as our facebook page to reach more people. Using the Africa Cup of Nations to present our message has proved very successful. We look forward to using such events in future to invite men to get tested.”
A preliminary evaluation in April demonstrated that people were able to remember the messages well. During the campaign HIV testing and counselling was provided for 395 men and boys and 391 women and girls, among whom 16 women and two men tested positive.