Less Skin, We Win! That’s the message that commuters in Cape Town and Johannesburg are getting when they take their taxi ride into work today as taxis branded with the new Sonke Medical Male Circumcision (MMC) campaign messages took to the streets, encouraging young men in the Western Cape and Gauteng to get circumcised.
Using taxis is a great way to reach large numbers of South Africans with information about campaigns like MMC: there are 16 million taxi commuters weekly of which 59% are under the age of 34. But in addition to those waiting at Taxi Ranks and riding in taxis are the millions of people who pass taxis on the roads each day. Each taxi creates 200 000 opportunities for the message to be seen each month.
Within hours of the first MMC taxi hitting the streets of Cape Town, one of our own staff members (and the MMC Project Co-ordinator at that!) had spotted one on his way to work!
For the moment, there are only a few of these taxi’s on the road, in specific areas where Sonke is distributing MMC materials, working with partners, and conducting community dialogues and door-to-door campaigns but in the coming year we will be putting more of these vehicles onto the roads.
Commuters and passers-by who see the taxis are informed that Medical Circumcision reduces men’s chance of getting HIV by 60%. They are also encouraged to SMS the word proud to the number 32759 to get information about free circumcision clinics in their community. And provided with some additional reminders to always use a condom.
Developing the Campaign Materials
The entire campaign, which includes brochures, posters, t-shirts and murals in addition to the taxis, focuses on MMC as a positive move for men’s health, in terms of HIV, cancer and STIs, with many of the same benefits shared by women (although the HIV risk reduction benefits are indirect).
Working with students at Artists Proof Studios in Johannesburg, we have tried to balance the need for strong, clear messages that speak directly to our target audience (young men) with the need to ensure that the information is medically accurate and in no way encourages risky behaviour. Add in the need to ensure that the messaging is culturally sensitive and you have quite a complex set of considerations to take into account! It took some time, but the result is something we are all proud of.
Watch This Space
We will be increasing the range of our MMC activities next year, including a stronger focus on social media and other forms of innovative communication.
Amongst other things, we will be producing a teen fiction novel including an MMC storyline to reach a younger audience. We will also be using cell-phone technologies to provide coaching to men who have signed up for MMC both before and after the procedure.