POST B: Harnessing the viral nature of social media to promote HIV testing.

South Africa has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. Despite the work done by the government and numerous NGO’s to educate people on the dangers of HIV and its prevention methods, it remains prevalent with 7.7 million people living with HIV in South Africa alone (UNAIDS 2019). Until recently, one of the key issues in addressing this problem has been the lack of engagement offered by traditional public announcements and warnings, particularly towards young people.

‘MTV #FCKHIV Campaign’ (Oglivy South Africa, 2017)

In order to resonate with the youth, social media campaigns such as the #FCKHIV movement created by MTV and Oglivy (2017) have been necessitated to modernise and stress the issue. This campaign promoted HIV testing in typical MTV fashion, with bright, bold colours and a youthful spin on the process. Recognising the dreariness of dry statistics, the campaign promoted the check as an act of rebellion and protest against the disease, asking people to “give HIV the middle finger” by using their middle finger for the check and encouraging them to post pictures with the hashtag #FCKHIV. Due to the viral nature of social media, this campaign had an easily measurable effect in terms of awareness; it became the top trending topic within 9 minutes and reached 6.8 million impressions across social media (Oglivy South Africa 2017).

The #FCKHIV social media campaign hasn’t been the only factor improving the situation in South Africa. The introduction of a nationwide HIV testing and counselling campaign in 2010 (HTC) and the HTC revitalisation strategy in 2013 have undeniably been the most crucial catalysts for more than 10 million people in South Africa to test for HIV each year (Avert 2019)(Johnson et al 2019). Yet the MTV campaign and a host of other modern formats for raising awareness such as television shows (MTV Shuga)(Lopez & Orozco 2016), are also vital in tackling issues surrounding the stigmas and prejudices surrounding HIV and HIV testing (Bos et al 2008, p. 52), making it more approachable. The combination of both accessibility and specific-target campaigns has lead to significant progress in recent years, and in 2017 South Africa reached the first of UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets (UNAIDS 2019), allowing 90% of people living with HIV to be aware of their status as opposed to 66.2% in 2014 (Avert 2019).

This method of raising awareness by targeting a younger demographic through social media and interactive engagement, may be an apt and interesting avenue to explore in relation to Indonesia’s tobacco crisis, particularly due to its prevalence among children and young people (Wibawa 2019). It could act as a more friendly alternative to the scare-tactics used in most public messages surrounding the issue.


Avert, 2019, HIV and Aids in South Africa, Brighton, viewed 17 November 2019, <;.

Bos, A.E.R., Meiberg, A.E., Onya, H.E. & Schaalma, H.P. 2008, ‘Fear of stigmatization as barrier to voluntary HIV counselling and testing in South Africa’, East African Journal of Public Health, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 49-54, viewed 18 November 2019, < >.

Govathson, C., Johnson, L.F., Meyer-Rath, G. & van Rensburg, C. 2019, ‘Optimal HIV testing strategies for South Africa: a model-based evaluation of population-level impact and cost-effectiveness’, Science Reports, no. 12621, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.

Lopez, K. & Orozco, V. 2016, ‘The newest weapon against HIV/AIDS in Africa? MTV’, Voices: Perspectives on development, weblog, World Bank Blogs, June 30, viewed 19 November 2019 <>.

MTV & Oglivy, 2019, #FCKHIV, video, Vimeo, viewed 17 November 2019,

Oglivy, 2019, #FCKHIV Summary, Creative Pool, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.

UNAIDS, 2019, UNAIDS South Africa Data, Geneva, viewed 17 November 2019, <;

UNAIDS, 2019, 90-90-90: Treatment for all, Geneva, viewed 17 November 2019, <>

Wibaya, T. 2019, Tackling Indonesia’s smoking addiction a ‘double-edged sword’, ABC, Sydney, viewed 19 November 2019, <>.

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