12 September 2008

Condom ring-tone a hit in India

A cell phone ringtone that chants "condom, condom!" has been launched in India to promote safe sex and tackle the growing HIV/Aids epidemic.

A ring-tone that sings "condom, condom, condom" has attracted over 270 000 downloads since its launch last month and has spread the message of safe sex to many more mobile phone users in India and abroad.

The innovative "Condom a Capella" ring-tone that has the word "condom" sung in many overlapping melodies is the work of an Indian duo, Rupert Fernandes and Vijay Prakash. The website, where the ring-tone can be heard, has had over 2 million hits.

The campaign has been produced by the BBC World Service trust in India and aims to target the increasing number of India's mobile phone users, presently estimated at over 250 million.

According to latest figures, 2.4 million people are living with HIV in India. Only about half of the at-risk population, including sex workers and men who have sex with men have access to HIV prevention measures, the latest UNAIDS fact sheet on India states.

Stigma and taboo associated with sex education are the major challenges facings HIV/Aids prevention programs in India. Less a third of the young population surveyed could correctly identify the ways to prevent HIV infection, the UNAIDS report states.

Never before has a mobile ring-tone been used to communicate a social or public health message, said Yvonne MacPherson, Country Director, India, BBC World Service Trust.

"We wanted to create a conversation piece that would get people talking and ultimately break down the taboo about condoms," she commented to Reuters Health. "We want condoms to be seen as any other health product." - (C. Vidya Shankar, MD/Reuters Health)

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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