Music/ Comics for HIV/AIDS Prevention

Historias_dos_becos Supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in Mozambique, CMFD worked with the residents of Chamanculo, a peri-urban community of Maputo, to create music and illustrated comic stories to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, and inspire youth to know their HIV status. The music was also perfromed at a community concert, distributed to radio stations, and became part of local band Sigauque Project’s regular repertoire of songs.

With an estimated population of 800,000 residents, Chamanculo is one of the most densely populated areas in Mozambique. Poverty, gender inequality, high crime and violence, and alcohol abuse all combine to encourage risky behaviour among youth. Early and unintended pregnancies are widespread, and although most youth in this urban area are aware of HIV and protection methods, changing attitudes and behaviours is still a challenge. Challenging deeply engrained attitudes and behaviours means providing new ideas and behaviour modeling for young people, other than what they see around them daily. The project used the youth friendly mediums of music and comics to encourage dialogue, new perspectives and behaviours. Music and comics appeal to young people and allow for dealing with complex and sensitive issues in an entertaining way.

The project activities included:

Writing and production of two songs related to HIV/AIDS

Using a participatory process we worked with local music group Sigauque Project to create two songs about HIV. These songs will be the focus of a concert in Chamanculo, be distributed to radio stations, and become part of Sigauque Project’s regular repertoire of songs. Music has been chosen as it is appealing to young people, and since songs can be sung repeatedly, messages are communicated clearly.

New songs

The two new songs are a lively passada, and rap mix with guest rapper “Mr. Brains.” The concert included Sigauque Project’s usual line-up, originally produced across Africa and recently re-recorded live in Maputo. Amazingly hard hitting rhythm and brass section combined with three voices make this 12 piece band truly unique. The creation of Canadian-born Daniel Walter, most of the tunes played by Sigauque Project were originally created and recorded by CMFD Productions as part of radio and music for social change projects.

Concert Kick-off

A community concert was held, which also served and launched the youth comic campaign. The concert featured Sigauque Project. We invited other organisations and community groups to take part, for example to distribute their materials. The youth-event took place in a central part of the community in the afternoon, open to everyone. Along with the two HIV songs, Sigauque Project played their usual repertoire. An MC/ animator hosted the concert and provide continuity, as well as talked to the audience in a fun and entertaining way about HIV. Between sets, HIV related contests was held with T-shirts as prizes. Concerts are very appealing to young people. As well, it is important to launch the comic campaign with an event that is based wholly in the community, so that it is clear that the messages and media are being developed from this community itself.

Wall Comics


The 12 wall comics were produced in collaboration with local young people. They were  posted in 100 places, one per week over a three month period, in high traffic areas, for example in clinics, schools, on shop walls, near the market, drinking spots, etc. Designed or youth, the light-hearted and comical stories cover a range issues, such using condoms, peer pressure, having multiple partners, and transactional sex. The team had the opportunity to learn from the responses to the first comic as they developed subsequent episodes. Wall comics use the typical comic book genre, but rather than being printed in booklet form, they are produced on large poster size sheets and posted in public spaces. These have been chosen as they appeal young people, but also the community at large, and because they encourage dialogue. Unlike comic books, which a person is more likely to read alone, wall comics posted in public places tend to be read by groups of people together, thus encouraging community dialogue as people react to and discuss the stories they read.

The first step was to put together a team of young artists and writers, chosen from the community, as well as conduct community-based formative research. The comic characters and stories also made a link with the concert. All characters are fictional, but key Chamanculo landmarks, such as a school or market, were featured, in order to place the story squarely within the community. Key issues and storylines where determined as part of the process, but included:

Addressing the following in the context of HIV prevention.

  •  No means no – sexual violence
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Countering stigma
  • Coping with peer pressure
  • Prevention – using condoms
  • Prevention – girls responses to persuasion
  • Dangers of transactional sex
  • Getting tested
  • Multiple concurrent partnerships as a risk

Expected results

While information may be increasing about the basics of HIV prevention - i.e. how HIV is contracted and going for VCT – attitude and behaviour change is slow to follow. As mentioned, HIV in this community is very closely linked with poverty, alcohol abuse, gender violence, and a general ambivalence to risk reduction. The project will not only create awareness and provide information about HIV, but also challenge attitudes, stereotypes and the generally accepted social norms that contribute to negative attitudes and behaviors. However, it will do so by encouraging the community to analyse itsown challenge and risk behaviors, and prosing possible solutions.

By putting young people at the forefront of this intervention, it is expected that the project will result in:

  •  increased awareness and information about HIV prevention and services available;
  • increased dialogue among youth, as well as the community at large, about HIV as well as harmful norms, habits, and attitudes;
  • new perspectives and understanding among youth and the community about how such factors, as well as GBV and alcohol, encourage risky behaviours;
  • greater awareness among young women about the risks specific to them, and their own ability to prevent HIV; and
  • a sense of pride among youth and the community about media generated by this community, for this community.

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