Every Sunday, men and women across Côte d’Ivoire end the weekend by watching television. On March 16 a new television drama series joined the popular Sunday evening line up: Réseaux (“Networks” in English).
Réseaux follows the story of Jean-Yves, a man in his mid-40s who is torn between his wife, Sara, and his young mistress, Nina, and also occasionally engages in relations with his coworker, Anita. Along with his two best friends from college, François and Zadi, Jean-Yves is caught in a complex sexual network of current and past relationships that intersect and put him at risk for becoming infected with HIV.
Inspired by the award-winning South African drama Intersexions, Réseaux was developed by JHU∙CCP’s Active Prevention and Transformative Communication (PACT) program and Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) in partnership with Spot Line and with funding from USAID. Formative research into the attitudes and behaviors driving the HIV epidemic in Côte d’Ivoire underpins the interwoven storylines in the television series.
A survey of HIV prevalence in Côte d’Ivoire conducted in 2011-2012 by the Insitut National de Statistiques under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and AIDS found the highest prevalence to be among men and women ages 40-49, the age of Jean-Yves and his friends. The formative research conducted for the series revealed that this cohort of men tend to think they are not at risk for infection—if they think about HIV at all. At the same time, many young women, like Jean-Yves’ mistress Nina, enter into relationships with older men seeking economic benefits. With these two groups as their target audience, the creators of Réseaux hope that the series will help to promote safer sexual behaviors among sexually active young girls and married men and women.
A radio talk show based on the drama series began airing on March 19. A doctor who specializes in HIV/AIDS and a psychologist who specializes in relationship counseling field calls from listeners during the show. Discussion about the show is also being promoted through a website, www.serie-reseaux.com, Facebook page, posters, T-shirts and bus stop advertising.
A ceremonial launch is planned for April 3. PEPFAR and governmental officials will be in attendance.