Help Kenyans Debunk Myths About HIV/AIDS via Social Media…
“…when people have more knowledge and information about HIV/AIDS the beliefs in myths is diminished…”
Richard Delate, consultant and former UNAIDS worker
According to Family Care International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making “pregnancy and childbirth safer around the world,” one in 19 women in Kenya will die from pregnancy and childbirth-related causes. HIV/AIDS is one of the primary reasons for this alarming and preventable statistic.
Family Care International (FCI), founded in 1994 and based in New York City, is just one of many organizations working to reduce the spread of HIV in Kenya. The organization is working hard to educate and inform citizens of Kenya, and do this by advocating for policies and programs, providing technical assistance to local organizations that offer sexual and reproductive health, and developing educational and training materials that address HIV/AIDS. FCI is working through the many available global and grassroots channels to raise awareness and reach individuals at risk. They have not fully embraced the use of social media to reach Kenyans in Kenya.
Above and beyond the disease itself, FCI and other organizations have several barriers in their attempts to reach people in Kenya with crucial and factual information about HIV/AIDS.
Addressing the issue of AIDS in Kenya is multifaceted. Kenya’s citizens, government, schoolteachers, parents, NGOs, and the Catholic Church all play a role in how contraception, information, and medication reach many citizens. Information about how AIDS is spread, cured, and prevented is disseminated through these many disparate channels, and can often times lead to myths and hypothesis that have catastrophic and deadly results. Organizations need to help Kenyans to help their fellow citizens disseminate correct information about HIV/AIDS.
Devastating myths about HIV/AIDS in Kenya include:
-Having sex with a virgin can cure a person with HIV/AIDS
-One can contract AIDS via mosquitos
-Condoms are infected with the virus by foreign governments or aid organizations
-AIDS is caused by witchcraft
-AIDS can be cured
-AIDS can only be contracted by parents, homosexuals, drug users
-Showering after intercourse can prevent AIDS
-According to Pope Benedict XVI in a MArch 2009 statement, “You can’t resolve it (AIDS) with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.”
FCI and the people of Kenya can help citizens embrace and more aggressively utilize social media to reach people with factual and vital information about HIV/AIDS.
FCI is utilizing social media with a Facebook page that posts important information about its work, yet is not targeting Kenyans. A July 19 post, for example, features a video of FCI’s President Ann Starrs, speaking at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna. No Twitter account can be found, and a Youtube video has been posted featuring Starrs acceptance speech for FCI’s win of the United Nations Population Award (which is presents to an individual(s) and/or institution(s) in recognition of outstanding contributions to increasing the awareness of population questions and to their solution).
Suggestions for Family Care International, along with other organizations and Kenyan citizens include:
- List the myths as erroneous on website and all social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Mashada, Whive (which includes free SMS), and Iborian
- Encourage site visitors to debunk myths via social media, print, and hand out information as well
- Place links on FCI website to its social media sites
- Create a call to action on social media sites (i.e. Share this link, email a friend, print this information and share)
- Urge Kenya’s leading bloggers to post specific information about the spread of HIV/AIDS, how people can access help
- Create easy-to-remember bullet points and sound bites about HIV/AIDS facts
- Urge people to keep taking about the facts
- Utilize and urge other NGOs to embrace Ushahidi in order for people in Kenya to share information about where myths are being perpetuated
- Join social media conversations by responding to myths and sharing vital information on message boards
- Post Youtube videos debunking myths