“My Life, My Decision” Youth Campaign Launches in Cote d’Ivoire

The Ma Vie Ma Decision! campaign—French for “My Life, My Decision”—commenced August 1, 2007, at a ceremony in Abidjan with young people who helped develop the campaign along with government officials and local NGO personnel. This new youth-driven health promotion campaign incorporates young Ivorians’ language into TV spots, radio programs, and a photo novella to address sensitive issues around gender norms, HIV risk, condom use and sexual negotiation skills.

Research in the country has shown that young people hold a variety of beliefs and attitudes that can be barriers to sexual and reproductive health. Among these beliefs are perceptions that their HIV risk is low, vulnerable young women who favor condom use are of questionable morality, and young men must prove their virility through sexual conquests. To address these issues, campaign messages treat condom use for older youth, abstinence, and HIV testing, among others, as choices and signs of responsibility rather than prescriptive dictates.

At the launch ceremony, the Centers for Disease Control country Director, Dr Bruce Struminger, expressed his enthusiasm for the campaign “which focuses on the important issues of the abstinence, being faithful, condom use for vulnerable youth, and voluntary HIV counseling and testing.” Ms. Regina Traoré, country representative of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communication Programs (CCP) added that “youth recommended that young women be particularly empowered so they can take control of their own lives and decide for themselves.”

CCP developed the materials and is implementing the campaign in collaboration with the Ministry of the Fight against AIDS, the Ministry of Education, and REPMASCI, a network of media professionals against AIDS. The program is funded by The President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Campaign activities will run through November 30, 2007, in Abidjan and four other cities across the country. In addition to radio and TV spots that are already airing, local NGOs will help roll out the community outreach component later this month. All campaign materials, including radio programs with discussion guides for youth groups, posters, and brochures, are available for use by religious organizations working with youth, school groups, and other youth community groups.

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