Chants of “condom, condom” will now intersperse indipop and bhajan ringtones as part of a nationwide campaign to promote safe sex. Conceived to destigmatise condom use and encourage responsible sexual behaviour, the new ringtone targets young people between 15 and 35 years.
Called “condom a cappella” –a cappella, Italian for "in chapel style”, refers to chants or singing without music, but with or without voice percussion – the ringtone is a part of a two year project using mass media to make condoms socially acceptable.
Supported by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), the ringtone is funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundaton and produced by the BBC World Service Trust.
The campaign is part of NACO’s youth-friendly platforms such as films, online games, mobile advertising and downloads, along with the TV and radio advertisements to engage the young in the safe sex debate.
“We have already launched an ad campaign based on the ringtone on Doordarshan and will go on air on cable and satellite networks by Wednesday,” says Mayank Agarwal, joint director, (information, education, communication), NACO.
Bollywood stars and online gaming are already adding the much-needed zing to NACO’s AIDS awareness campaign. Bollywood biggies such as lyricist Gulzar, music director Shantanu Moitra (of the Parineeta and Munnabhai fame), and filmmakers Mira Nair, Vishal Bharadwaj, Santosh Sivan and Farhan Akhtar have composed lyrics and made short films on HIV/AIDS, that have been telecast on TV over the past few months.
Bollywood stars, both young and the not-so-young -- such as Shiney Ahuja, Boman Irani, Irrfan Khan, Raima Sen, Sameera Reddy, Siddharth, Ayesha Takia, Jackie Shroff, Prabhudeva and Shabana Azmi – are among the cast of the films and spots made to dismantle the myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.
“The idea is to spread awareness through entertainment and partners such as Avahan – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s India Initiative -- have roped in many big names. We want to grab the viewers’ attention so that they do not switch the channel as soon as a film on AIDS starts,” says Agarwal.
Interactive games developed by the US-based Johns Hopkins University are available on free online gaming websites such as zapak.com. “It is an interactive detective game about an AIDS research scientist truing to escape from an international gang. HIV information is embedded in the game and players have to unravel clues to escape,” says Agarwal.
In the past, the UN has used condoms to provide some comic relief by launching 20 short video spots of animated condoms to promote safe sex. The talking rubbers speak 41 languages fluently, including Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil and Punjabi.
Called The Three Amigos, the video spots feature rubbers called Dick, Shaft and Stretch who go on a series of funny adventures. The episodes include a space odyssey with a punchline, ‘No condom, no blast off’, and a jungle safari with the message: ‘It's a jungle out there - carry protection.’