AFCIG, MTV SAF take HIV/AIDS prevention education to nightclubs, cabarets,bars in Bamenda, Cameroon.

Play safe posters are found along strategic areas of town

Play safe posters are found along strategic areas of town

AFCIG, (www.afcig.org ) a Bamenda based NGO is taking the fight against  HIV/AIDS to the door steps of leisure facilities in Bamenda with the implementation of its “Play Safe” initiative. The Play Safe initiative which is financed by MTV Staying Alive Foundation (http://stayingalivefoundation.org ), aims to promote safe sex practices amongst youths in Cameroon.

The project that kicked-off in January 2013, has already trained over 60 DJs and popular animators from various night clubs, cabarets and radio stations in Bamenda. The project targets the “stars of night spots” who in turn use musical animations to promote safe sex practices amongst youths and act as role models too.

Play Safe is broadcasting a series of interactive Radio programs on Radio Hot Cocoa, a leading community radio station in Bamenda.  These live programs allow youths to call in and share useful tips on 'playing safe', especially on the correct and consistent use of condoms. The initiative also makes use of Facebook and text messages to reach out to youths.

“Sexual intercourse still remains the principal channel through which HIV is transmitted amongst youths in Cameroon and occurs often when they engage in unprotected sex after hanging out and drinking alcohol with friends in bars, nightclubs and other such places at night” Ngasa Wise, Coordinator of AFCIG  told Bamenda Online during an interview following a visit by his team to the Facebook, Black and White, and Walian cabarets  in town on Saturday night.

“Talking to youths about safe sex just before they are likely to indulge in risky sexual activity is important. Many youths throw caution to the wind after one or two bottles of alcohol but if someone is there to remind them, this could mean a lot” he said.

Over 15 cabarets and night clubs of DJs that have undergone training have been branded with sensitization materials including stickers on drinking glasses, as Safe Fun Spots. Condom boxes have been placed in strategic locations in these carbarets and are being filled with free condoms regularly. Over 4000 male and 1000 female condoms have been distributed freely by Play Safe to clients of carbarets so far, thanks to a partnership with the Cameroon Medical Women's Association, CMWA, which is supplying AFCIG with free condoms.

A night club DJ with an AFCIG staff

A night club DJ with an AFCIG staff

Safe spots are furnished with items like condoms for free distribution

Safe spots are furnished with items like condoms for free distribution

Reactions towards the campaign have been mix. The Catholic Church has condemned  Play Safe sensitization materials as 'promoting sexual promiscuity'. The materials which carry the inscription 'I Play Safe. I use a condom correctly, each time I have sex,' have been put up in highly populated hubs in Bamenda including at the Commercial Avenue.

Ngasa Wise, AFCIG's Coordinator smiles at the criticism. 'We do not plan to shy away from the 'sex word'. The fact is young people are becoming more and more sexually active. Thirteen year olds are getting pregnant every day. We can either teach them to do it right or let them go astray. While we encourage youths to abstain, abstinence alone will not suffice as more youths chose to be sexually active.'

Bamenda Online sampled the opinion of the clients of some carbarets who generally welcome the campaign.

“I think as a parent, this is a good idea because it comes in as a last minute reminder to the youths. As parents we can only educate them on these issues but we can never be there all the time for them” said Ngwe Armstrong a client in one of the cabarets.

Mokum Glynn, AFCIG's Technical Adviser on HIV/AIDS says for AFCIG, Play Safe is a new start. 'In the months and years ahead, with the support of our partners especially MTV SAF, we hope to place the promotion of condom use amongst youths, as a central strategy to promoting more open and effective sex education using a variety of innovative approaches, as a way of contributing concretely to a reduction in the spread of HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and other STIs.'

The Northwest Regional Technical Group (RTG) for the fight against HIV/AIDS puts the region second in the country with a prevalence rate of 6.3 % as against 5.3 % national prevalence rate in 2011. 

To learn more about AFCIG and Play Safe,

visit: www.afcig.org and  www.facebook.com/yourhealthyoursay.

By Abongwa Fozo