Durban North resident Melissa Mungroo graduated recently with a Master of Journalism degree from the Durban University of Technology (DUT). Mungroo is the first female to graduate with this degree from the Journalism Department.
Her study focused on the First Things First campaign and the responses of first-year University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) students to the campaign posters. The campaign is a project of the Higher Education and Training HIV and AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) that emphasises counselling and testing to reduce HIV and AIDS prevalence amongst students. The campaign posters encourage students to get tested and know their HIV status.
Said Mungroo, “The majority of participants understood the campaign messages, which they cite as ‘get tested’ and ‘know your HIV status’. The findings indicate that students accepted that the posters encourage them to test for HIV but that stigma, personal fears and the social environment could deter them from testing.”
Although Mungroo’s study found that the majority of the intended audience appears to have understood the intended meanings of the campaign.
“students feel that the First Things First campaign posters could be improved to further and better communicate the intended message to fellow students by incorporating various factors such as gender construction, culture, language and more visual elements,” she said.
Considering that first-year students frequent social media platforms, this presents an additional opportunity for improved communication on the First Things First campaign specifically.
“This is a vital platform in displaying the campaign posters, thus stimulating feedback and interactive communication amongst the student population. Students could interact and make comments on the campaign messaging that could possibly provide helpful peer-to-peer advice amongst first-year students through a moderated online platform,” advised Mungroo.
In her study, students strongly believe in the power of theatre. Mungroo suggests that various student bodies could consider performing monologues, plays, dance pieces and songs that would train volunteers in aspects of theatre aimed at health promotion.
Mungroo believes that while the extent to which the First Things First campaign has achieved its objectives nationally, this is yet to be determined. ‘It is hoped the campaign organisers and health promoters consider this study’s findings on the significance of HCT campaign posters and the need for active social media and marketing campaigns for HCT promotion and adoption,’ she said.