HIV and AIDS

‘€œWork it out for yourself’€

Less than a quarter of young people between 15 and 24 have ever tested for HIV, according to research by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Human Sciences Research Council. Now, popular jeans label Levis Strauss is making an effort to get the ‘€œKnow Your HIV Status’€ message to appeal to the youth.

YOLISA: Entertainment is the best way to attract the youth to HIV messaging, according to experience.      

 

SFX: We made sure we use tyres you know what I mean, made sure we use rubbers. You only live once son so come get with it. I’€™m your voice, your conscience. Listen to me, listen to it, never get confused by your drive. [Poetry style with music]  

 

YOLISA: Voices of various popular artists lending their support to an HIV/AIDS campaign last year. It is no secret that young people are immensely attracted to popular culture. Levi Strauss South Africa was well aware of the fact before embarking on their campaign.

MIKE JOUBERT: The reason we chose to do that is because the Levis brand is cool, it’€™s relevant and it’€™s credible. We’€™ve certainly seen activities we’€™ve had in the last year that in particular the youth can resonate with what we’€™re trying to do.

 

YOLISA: Mike Joubert is the MD of Levi’€™s Strauss South Africa, a company that specialises in manufacturing and selling jeans. They are embarking on a campaign to encourage the youth to be tested for HIV. Their main aim, Joubert says, is to support the prevention of further HIV infections.

The campaign is called ‘€œRed for Life VCT [Voluntary Counselling and Testing] ‘€“ work it out for yourself’€. Joubert says sceptics are already asking if this is not just a marketing ploy.

 

MIKE JOUBERT: We’€™re asked why do we do something like this, are we trying to sell more jeans? The reality is that the more jeans we sell, the more we can do these things.

 

YOLISA: Levi Strauss South Africa has partnered with an organisation called New Start which offers Voluntary Counselling and Testing in three provinces around the country. New Start has the support of the National Health Department. New Start’€™s Billy Scott says their goal is to complement government HIV testing services by providing convenient testing centres for those least likely to visit government testing services.

 

SCOTT BILLY: Even though we’€™re at the epicentre of the global AIDS epidemic, only 21 percent of 15 ‘€“ 24 year olds have ever been tested in South Africa. The greatest number of new infections in the country occurs among 15 ‘€“ 25 year olds so we’€™re working with Levi to harness the power of the Levi’€™s brand ‘€“ which is the coolest brand for kids ‘€“ to harness that power for HIV testing.

 

YOLISA: Levi and New Start will be providing mobile testing centres around the country, equipped with counselling staffers. A follow up period of four months will be offered to the young people to ensure that they receive adequate counselling and support, should they test positive.

To attract the young people they wish to encourage, Levi’€™s has partnered with a number of top South African artists and will be hosting a music concert later this month. Most artists who will be performing will also take HIV tests. Unathi Nkayi is one of the artists. She is a musician and a DJ at a popular youth station ‘€“ YFM. I asked her why she personally got involved.        

 

UNATHI NKAYI: It’€™s too personal not to. I’€™ve been through too much. I wrote a song because I lost a cousin and I think that’€™s the reason Levi’€™s asked me to be involved but I’€™m affected everyday. I’€™ve got a cousin who’€™s HIV positive and pregnant and I’€™m trying to be the serious cousin and ndiyamkhinya (she gets annoyed) you know. If one person is going to listen to me because of the position I’€™m in then its one more person who is not going to be affected.

 

YOLISA: The Nelson Mandela/HSRC research recommended that there should be a massive expansion of a confidential voluntary counselling and testing service as part of an overall prevention and care campaign. Levi’€™s is responding to this with the notion of ‘€œwork it out for yourself’€, take control of your life. The aim is to promote HIV testing as a normal part of life for young South Africans. Levi’€™s South Africa MD Mike Joubert’€¦

 

MIKE JOUBERT: This campaign ensures that we engage with our core target market and assist South Africa’€™s youth in making the right decisions.

 

About the author

Yolisa Njamela