Population Services International (PSI) officially launched an HIV/AIDS & Alcohol project last week that will market the message of drinking responsibly.
Speaking at the launch, Toby Kasper, Country Representative of PSI Botswana, said; “PSI works at making healthy-living sexy behaviour by adopting marketing strategies similar to those used by Coca Cola.”
PSI classifies itself as a social marketing organisation whose programs are based on results. Kasper said, apart from being susceptible to road accidents, heavy drinkers are also three times likely to have more sexual partners, he also mentioned that alcohol abusers are most likely to engage in unprotected sex.
The Minister of Health, Sheila Tlou, launched the PSI’s campaign and said that the HIV/AIDS and Alcohol project is aligned to the National HIV/AIDS Prevention Strategy. She also said, apart from alcohol encouraging multiple sexual partners, it also interferes with adherence to ARVs.
Tlou also said she had first worked with PSI thirteen years ago when they introduced Lovers Plus condoms which had thinner latex compared to government issued condoms and as a result, she says, the public preferred Lovers Plus.
Tlou said the ministry reinforces PSI’s efforts in educating young people about improving wellness and the best practices of preventions. She said the government of Botswana commends the American government and PSI for innovative ways of spreading prevention education through mass media.
The BOTUSA Director, Dr Margaret Davis, said alcohol has been proven through research to degenerate CD4 cells. “HIV positive people, not on treatment, have lower CD4 counts when drinking heavily. Consequently they require ARVs sooner,” she said.
“Alcohol also interferes with ARV adherence which causes resistance to the drugs,” Davis said.
Mbodlele, a beer bottle, is the central figure in the campaign. A streetwise character who makes useful statements about knowing ones limits. Mbodlele can be seen on the campaign’s billboards which have already been mounted around Gaborone, Lobatse and surrounding areas.