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Scrutinize Wins Prestigious Pan-Africa Health Communication Award

Scrutinize, the innovative, award-winning campaign that got young people to "scrutinize" their behaviours and take action to reduce their risk of HIV infection, has clinched the 5th annual AfriComNet Award in the Best Multichannel category.<--break->

Scrutinize was presented with the award at a gala event in Addis Ababa on the evening of 6 December, for being the best multichannel communication intervention or campaign. This category recognises integrated strategic communication initiatives that use a balance of television, radio, print and interpersonal channels.

Scrutinize is a national HIV prevention campaign designed to reach young people aged 16-24 years. The campaign combines mass media (through a series of animated TV advertisements, or "animerts") and interpersonal communication (with youth in school, out of school and in tertiary institutions), and encourages young people to "scrutinize" or understand their risk of HIV infection in relation to multiple partners, correct and consistent condom use, transactional sex and alcohol use.

Scrutinize is a collaborative effort between Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa (JHHESA), Matchboxology, DramAidE, Levi Strauss through its Red for Life initiative with funding by USAID/PEPFAR, and supported by the two national broadcasters, SABC and e.tv.

This is the third honour Scrutinize has garnered, following on a Gold Ubuntu Loerie Award granted to Levi's Red for Life last year for its investment in initiatives such as Scrutinize, and a Bronze Khuza Award where young people for the first time nominated a social awareness campaign as one of the most talked-about advertising campaigns.

"We're absolutely delighted to have received this prestigious award, which signals the recognition of our African peers in strategic HIV and AIDS health communication," says Richard Delate, managing director of JHHESA.

"A comprehensive evaluation of Scrutinize has already demonstrated its efficacy - and cost-effectiveness - through increased knowledge about the behaviours that place young people at risk of HIV infection, and getting them to reduce their number of sexual partners, use condoms, and know their HIV status. This award is confirmation that Scrutinize is a best-practice campaign, and sets benchmarks for other behavioural change campaigns aimed at young people in particular."

The African Network for Strategic Communication in Health and Development (AfriComNet) is an association of HIV and AIDS, health and development communication practitioners who reside, work, or have a primary interest in Africa. Formerly known as the Regional HIV and AIDS Behavior Change Communication Network (BCC Network), AfriComNet was established in October 2001 in recognition of the severity of the continent's HIV and AIDS pandemic and the need for high-quality strategic communication to respond to the crisis.

The AfriComNet annual awards aim to recognise outstanding contributions made by individuals or organisations to strategic HIV/AIDS communication, encourage innovation and quality in strategic communication, enhance appreciation of strategic communication as a necessary tool for effective health and development programmes, and acknowledge programmes, tools and productions that advance strategic communication and can be adapted and applied elsewhere.

This year, 46 entries in seven categories were received from 13 countries, the highest since the inception of the awards in 2007. The Multichannel category received 10 entries from seven countries.

Partners who have worked on the Scrutinize campaign have echoed Delate's sentiments:

*"Scrutinize is a vibrant, creative and interactive campaign that continues to make waves. This award is great news indeed but more important is the fact that Scrutinize has shown impact in counselling and testing, condom use and partner reduction. This is a wonderful achievement indeed," says Mkhonzeni Gumede, director of DramAidE, which has performed Scrutinize activations on education campuses countrywide.

*Says Cal Bruns, CEO of Matchboxology, the creators and producers behind Scrutinize: "We're thrilled that the international judges have recognized the power of Scrutinize. When true creativity and an very clear empathy with an audience meets the scientific evidence behind the pandemic, great things can happen. Scrutinize has truly been a labour of love for us, and we're over the moon that the award is shared with the holistic team who have brought this amazing campaign to life in so many touchpoints."

*"It's been an amazing and insightful experience for Mediology's team to work on such an integrated HIV campaign - breaking past the boundaries of the use of traditional media for building awareness. The media owners have continued to support our initiatives, as they have also seen the influence of such a powerful campaign in today's society, and this has definitely helped in reaching the sought-after young adults who are at risk," says Michael Pearce, channel planner for Mediology, which did the Scrutinize media planning

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