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It’s interesting how we’re looking into how we use mobile technologies in our HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns and that the latest ‘sex’ craze (for lack of a better phrase) revolves around using mobile phones.
I’m not sure why sexting is such a big deal right now – surely it’s been going on since people discovered texting – but I guess it’s getting more common and the fact that young people and kids are doing this as well. More people do need to talk about it because there are so many implications around it. The most obvious being having your phone captured pictures leaked online and/or distributed electronically through more texting, you just need to think of all the celebrity scandals over the last few months revolving mobile phones and text messages.
More than that terrible embarrassment and/or potential humiliation, it also allows for the easy and free distribution of child porn.
Today I was reading about some kid in the US who tricked and bribed kids, boys i think, to send him nude pictures of themselves, kids as young as 15! And then got them to perform sexual acts on him. Very disturbing to say the least.

It’s just another factor that makes it easier for young people to get sexually exploited and even more sexualised. It wouldn’t be surprising if young girls these days think its ok to send a graphic text or image than actually have sex with a guy. But again it’s this whole lack of understanding of what these messages or images mean or can do. And then it just snowballs to having full on sex at some point.
Responsible sexting can be a good thing for a healthy relationship so I’m not totally against it, but where you have vulnerable people, it can be really dangerous.
This is just another indication of how pervasive new technologies can be and those of us involved in sexual health communication or any type of education that helps develop people, need to keep up and in fact work at a faster rate to get messages out.
Using mobile capabilities to spread messages or a health message in some form has got to become a norm, but other than in South Africa with PopTech’s Project Masiluleke, I don’t really know anyone who is successfully using this technology.
It’s an interesting one to explore and see what develops. Maybe we can come up with some sexy but safe templates people can use for their sexting exploits (that’s a free idea for you to have – anymore, you need to pay me for!).
But sexting isn’t going to go away anytime soon, and its only going to get worse – as we’ve already seen – as mobile technologies get better with videos being filmed and sent at faster speeds and better qualities – and young people who are getting more and more sexualised every day.

I’m back in London and feeling quite energised after my trip to LA – not only because of the refreshing weather (which obviously did help), but because of the research agenda conference. I was quite hasty in my judgment of the ‘research’ people not being able to think outside the box, because by the end of the two days they had proved me wrong, with some really insightful approaches. It’s given me the desire to want to do something new.

The research stuff was also interesting – I was worried that they’d use jargon that I’d have no idea what they were talking about, but a lot of it was in layman’s terms. They also did a lot of stuff on social networking that was really interesting. One of the most interesting presentations revolved around the idea of social networks being associated with behaviour – ultimately people associate with others like themselves.

It seems obvious enough – and actually if you’ve ever been to any school with the cliques (or even in workplace settings coming to think of it), you’ll know how important the influences in these networks can be, and even the importance of your social networks. Such thinking helps you to target your efforts – think about it, the diffusers of change will be faster when led by popular opinion leaders (think Oprah).

Now I need to figure out how to identify the influencers for our audience… Though thinking about it, it’s probably the people we see in popular culture… hmmmm that might be a bit of a problem. Let me think about that one.

Sorry I’ve been away for awhile, I’d gone away to help a friend ‘find herself’. As a ‘grown up’ woman, I do find it sad and hard to believe how many so called grown women are still battling with self-esteem issues. I suppose in a way we all have those feelings once in awhile where we doubt ourselves in one aspect or another. But this women, she seems to perpetually be in that state. On the surface, she’s a beautiful successful woman. She’s intelligent, and has a body to die for. But inside, it’s like she hasn’t caught up with that exterior. She’s like a young girl, stuck somewhere between being a little girl and being a woman.
This causes all sorts of problems for her in her personal life, she always seems to be caught up in destructive relationships – with men who cared nothing for her. If you meet her you’d think she’s a strong, independent, opinionated woman, but know anything about her relationships and you’d wonder if it was the same person. She tended to be with men who treated her like a plaything, often times these men had other women in their lives and only called on my friend when they wanted sex with minimal drama.
The problem was as a young girl, she was violated in the worst way possible, raped by two men who she knew – well two different occassions but within a few months of each act, amounting to three times in total. I think this pretty much screwed up any self love she might have had for herself, especially since she’d been an 18 year old already struggling with her looks. And I don’t think she ever recovered.
But the problem with her and other women with self-esteem problems is that because they don’t love themselves they put themselves in situations that can be harmful – like having unprotected sex with men they barely know. That was the thing that worried me about my friend – she’d know to get herself tested but even if the men she was sleeping with didn’t want to get tested, she’d still have unprotected sex with them.
Her story isn’t unique at all and this is what bothers me. We focus a lot of our prevention campaigns around using condoms, getting tested and saying no to sex. But the reality is we need to tackle the fundamental issues of self love. It’s already a hard battle for women in my generation (not that i’m that old!), but what about teenage girls growing up in a world where someone as talented as Beyonce is half naked in all her videos? Or even the videos where men seem to be talking appreciatively (until you actually listen to the words) of the curvaceous, skimpy clad girl dropping it like it’s hot?
They are being groomed to be a sexual object to be here to provide sexual gratification to a man, who if he really likes her will ‘spend it all on her and make her bed rock’.
I know we hear people talking about self-respect, but how do we instill respect in women when the media is full of images that promote anything but respect for women – whether it’s self-respect or from men (that’s another blog post for another day)?
If women, young and older, loved themselves, had higher self-esteem and self-respect, they wouldn’t be putting themselves in situations where they are disrespected or put at risk because of wanting to bend to a man’s sexual wants.
I’m happy to say that my friend finally acknowledged that she suffers from seriously low self-love after spending a weekend with a man who treated her badly – but had lots of sex with her – and she’s now seeking help. I have to admit, she’s one of the lucky ones, considering her sexual network – she’s very lucky.

The London Evening Standard did a survey asking people if they’d tell their current partners how many people they’d ever slept with. A surprising proportion of them said they would – ok it was about 10 people surveyed and about 8 of them said they would.
Sexual health dictates that we encourage people to talk openly about their sexual history and all that. But is there a way that you can do it without revealing your number of partners? Who doesn’t remember that scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral when Andie MacDowell’s character counts off the number of partners she’d had and Hugh Grant squirms and sweats as the number progresses over 10?
Is that not still the reality? Men are uncomfortable hearing how many people (male or female) their girlfriend has had – though could this be because they’re worried they can’t live up to expectations of her experiences? And women worry about being labeled.
I think we should encourage people to talk about sex so that they can talk to their partners about sexual health issues, getting tested and even sexual boundaries (some people are into more weird stuff than others).
But do we really need to get into numbers? And do we start judging people because of that? I.e. would a more sexually experienced woman have an issue with a man who’s only had two sexual partners in his lifetime? Would a man want to be with a woman who’s slept with 20 odd partners?
I don’t know, I just think the numbers game is a very tricky one. I think the Evening Standard went on to say that because the people were more open to disclosing their numbers they’d be more open to talking about their sexual health and other sexual issues. But if that’s true it clearly hasn’t done much, because the UK still has among the highest – if not the highest – rate of teenage pregnancies in Western Europe.
So again, I ask, what is the point of discussing your numbers? Keep it to have you had any sexually transmitted infections, can we get tested together and what method of protection will we use? – straight to the point.
Of course it would be nice if we could get to a point where sex is not so taboo and people can discuss anything without fear of judgment. Until then, I’m keeping mum about my number of sexual partners. I’m guessing one or none is the ideal number your partner wants to hear, and I don’t like to disappoint.

People, especially in the health sector, claim that scare-mongering doesn’t work when trying to communicate prevention messages. I’m not so sure I agree with this. Time and time again the ad that people, certainly in the UK, remember regarding HIV is the Tombstone PSA. You watch it today and think it’s just plain ridiculous – the grim reaper killing people like it’s a bowling game! But something about it worked.
Then today, you read about the woman in Detroit who created the hoax video about how she had slept with 500 men and infected them all – people’s boyfriends and husbands, just to drive home the message that you could be the partner of one of these men. People called it in, fear of a public health scare. But the testing clinic in Detroit saw its numbers jump significantly after over 17,000 viewed the spot. Surely that’s done more for HIV than some other more pc campaigns have done?
I do think people respond to basic emotions and fear is one of them. Yes you have to be careful not to preach the HIV+ = Death message, but the reality is, unfortunately, that if you have HIV you are going to die. Having lost relatives and still have relatives afflicted with this virus, I hate to say that, but we’ve got to be realistic. This isn’t a nice virus we’re dealing with, when it’s bad, it’s bad.
I think you need to use different tactics/messages to reach different people and some people do respond to fear, we can’t get away from that.
Messaging is really hard to deal with, but I think I’d focus more on longer formats, like documentaries and films or drama series, because then you can focus on the complex nature and issues that surround the virus. Maybe there’s a way you can tell people that if they get HIV they will die (eventually) without telling that that they will die and putting the fear into them.

Happy New Year everyone! It’s exciting to be in the new year. It’s another opportunity for us to reflect on the previous year and attempt to do better and not make the same mistakes. It really is a lot harder than it sounds.

The year in my team begins with planning what we want to do and accomplish this year. I’m doing it a little bit differently this year, but it’s led us into a debate about who our clients are. I’m tempted to say it’s the audience who watch our programming that are our clients, but we don’t get our money from them – we get it from our funding partners who want to reach our audience, so are they the clients?

It really is a crucial question that needs answering because it ultimately affect the products we produce. If you have any insights into how we identify this I’d be more than happy to hear it.

In the meantime – as I promised in one of my blogs way back, here is the first episode of Club Risky Business – the now award winning series, created and produced by Media 365 in Zambia (a company I am one of the directors of).

Written and produced by my very own brother, this is probably Zambia’s best serial drama with strong HIV/AIDS messages. Here is the documentary about the launch of the campaign, will seed a few episodes too, but this is just a taster…

the super secret trailer for the new drama we’re producing for africa. shot on location in Nairobi – i serve as an executive producer on it. it premieres on the 11th of November!

It’s all about sexual networks at the moment. do you know who’s in your sexual network? do you know that if one person is infected in your sexual network then you and everyone else in your network is at risk (if you’re having unprotected sex)? and the best one yet – when you have unprotected sex with someone, you’ve having sex with all their partners and all their partners partners.
so here in the UK one of the pharmacies here have set up an online sexual calculator, so you can see how many people you’ve had sex with – indirectly (think six degrees of separation, but around sexual partners). the problem with it is that for some people the calculations see a bit far fetched (a friend of mine did it and it said he’d had sex with over 9 million people!). and it doesn’t really tell you how it worked it out either…
but give it a go because if nothing else, it’s fun – and you can publish it on facebook (of course)! though we really do need (young) people to understand the whole concept of sexual networks and the risks. mtv – not the business unit i’m in – did a show that showed that between a group of eight friends they’d slept with over 200 people and inadvertently with each other because of their sexual networks. scary thought.
get calculating: