Sex education is a vital learning aspect that covers topics about an individual’s physiological development, sexual health and relationships. Despite this, many Cambodians shy away from talking about it.
To open the discourse on such topics, the National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD (NCHADS) and community-based organisations with the technical assistance of FHI 360- Cambodia’s LINKAGES project, has launched a campaign which seeks to widely disseminate information about the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
Entitled “Kapea Kluonneak,” which translates as “To Protect Yourself,” the new national campaign is geared at engaging young and at-risk people to partake in conversations about HIV, as well as increasing their access to HIV care and support services.
The campaign comes along with the mini-web series titled “Bok-Lahong Google,” which aims to initiate such conversations among families and peers. The campaign is also a platform by which people can safely discuss traditional perceptions of sex, gender and sexually transmitted infections in the hopes of assisting users to adapt to the reality of social changes.
NCHADS director Dr Ly Penh Sun says the web series consists of 11 episodes, each of which focuses on various key aspects related to HIV/AIDS and depict characters whose lives are closely hinged to reality. The audience is treated to comedic content while remaining informed about current HIV issues.
“One of the key aspects of the national HIV response is to provide correct and relevant HIV prevention information to the right audiences through channels that they can identify with. For young people, in particular, this means the use of social media platforms and interactive outreach activities that speak their language and address issues that actually matter to them,” says Dr Penh Sun.
The show’s main protagonist is played by Cheky, a leading influencer in the Kingdom who frequently appears in educational films that tackle the topic of sex. He plays the role of a friendly papaya salad seller who has the habit of engaging in conversations with his customers.
“Given the sensitive nature of conversations around HIV/AIDS, we thought situational comedy (sitcom) and light-hearted but focused messaging could be utilised to get people to start talking about such issues again. Aside from allowing us to bring more awareness to the HIV/AIDS situation in Cambodia, this strategy also permits us to do so in a non-threatening, inclusive and relatable manner,” adds Dr Penh Sun.
Although the past three episodes of the series have gained a significant following on social media, Dr Penh Sun stresses persuading people, especially parents and their children, to talk about sexual issues remains a challenge.
“These issues are sensitive. They are not always easy and comfortable to talk about, but parents should realise it is fundamental to those at risk of HIV infection,” he says.
Dr Lan Vanseng, deputy director of NCHADS, says the campaign is expected to make people comfortable with talking about HIV prevention measures, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis and condom use, HIV testing and treatment, among other HIV-related topics.
“It is hoped that the campaign could also educate and inform high-risk populations to learn about their risky behaviours, know how to protect themselves from HIV and feel empowered to access HIV testing and treatment services that they need,” he says.
Dr Vanseng adds to date, some who have watched episodes have gotten in touch with experts via their Facebook page to seek information about HIV transmission, testing and treatment services.
The mini web-series broadcasts every Saturday at 7pm and can be streamed via Facebook