JOHANNESBURG — TV programs such as the South African version of “Sesame Street” are helping the fight against HIV/Aids in the country, which has the highest HIV infection rate in the world, according to a survey released last week.
The survey was conducted among 8,000 South Africans ages 15 to 65 by John Hopkins U., Health Development Africa, the Center for Aids Development, Research and Evaluation and the Soul City Institute.
The shows the survey focused on included dance drama series “Tsha Tsha,” reality-based youth drama “Soul City” and “Takalani Sesame,” which includes an HIV-positive Muppet.
All are from pubcaster the SABC, broadcast mostly in indigenous languages and include AIDS issues in storylines.
The results showed that 60% of people who had seen 10 or more episodes used condoms, compared with 34% of those who had not seen any programs. The number of people who have come forward to be tested had doubled over the past year.
The shows create an environment that allows open AIDS discussion, says researcher Dr. Lawrence Kincaid, associate scientist in the department of health at John Hopkins U.
Kincaid says “Tsha Tsha,” seen by 14 million people “at some time or another,” has “significant impacts” on condom use, testing and the discussion of the subject in communities.
“Soul City,” which could reach 70% of the population, plays a big role in reducing the stigma attached to the disease and “Takalani Sesame” is sensitizing children about the issue at a young age.
However, the impact of the behavior change will take five to 10 years to work through the population, he says, and more research is needed to improve the targeting of messages to the public.