From school-aged youth racing to see who will be first to have 10 sex partners in one night, to adults hosting parties to test the efficacy of recreational drugs on kids — these are just two examples of the many dangerous aspects of “vuzu” (sex) parties among youth in Zimbabwe that are leading to increased HIV infections, STIs and unplanned teen pregnancies.
In an effort to curb the troubling trend that has become a common phenomenon in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city, AHF Zimbabwe utilized the informative Mai Chisamba television show, as well as multiple billboard and newspaper ads, in an intensive campaign to help reach youth nation-wide.
“Mai Chisamba was just one piece of this overall campaign that is greatly needed to help bring awareness to these risky behaviors,” said AHF Zimbabwe Prevention Program Manager Clever Taderera. “Along with our colorful ads, the TV program is key in disseminating information that upholds the customs of local people—so this one-hour talk show with parents, police, schools and other stakeholders airing their views on vuzu parties was really impactful in determining how to best tackle the problem.”
Over 300 participants, including a member of parliament, packed the television studio to seek out key drivers of the drug- and sex-fueled parties, which include peer pressure, absent parents or guardians, and discontinued entertainment events that had previously been hosted by schools.
“There are many factors pushing kids to attend vuzus, but we hope that campaigns like this will help show them the dangers of partaking in such activities,” added Taderera. “As a provider of HIV care and treatment in Zimbabwe, we are planning events with our partners that will create safe spaces when schools are closed that give youth an alternative on days when parties are likely to be planned.”
The next AHF event is slated for early December to align with a school closure. It will provide information on sexual and reproductive health, family planning, HIV testing, and voluntary medical male circumcision—as well as education via entertainment by popular theatre groups and artists.
According to UNAIDS estimates, there were 1.3 million people living with HIV (PLHIV) in Zimbabwe in 2018, and the country’s overall HIV prevalence rate (the percentage of PLHIV among adults ages 15-49) was 12.7%. AHF has been working in Zimbabwe since 2016 and currently has over 29,000 patients enrolled in care.