A nurse educator at Rutger's University's College of Nursing is piloting a unique method of spreading the message of safe sex: cell phone soap operas. Yep, you heard right. According to an article by the Associated Press, the purpose is "to use short videos to go beyond pamphlets on safe sex and deliver the message to women who might otherwise tune it out."

The article goes on to explain that Rachel Jones developed this education campaign using professional actors and scripts based on focus groups with women in Newark and Jersey City. She filmed a series of 12 "soap opera vignettes" using a grant from a Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey. She also received a $2MM grant from the National Institutes of Health to test the effectiveness of the campaign.

Jones said, "Women who watched the first pilot were getting upset, angry, exacerbated.....Women really saw themselves in that video. We're really resonating with urban contemporary themes that we believe are relevant to women.......What we believe will happen is that knowledge alone is not effective at changing behaviors.. We believe that women in the community will so identify with heroines in the story their own behaviors will change as well."

Rachel Jones

Women in the federal study will watch the 20-minute episodes on their cell phones. Their risk-reduction behavior will be measured against a control group that will receive text messages urging condom use, but no video. A total of 250 women will participate.

The scripts feature "nitty gritty stories of risk and risk reduction" that women can identify with, she said, adding that cell phone viewing ensures privacy and offers the viewer the chance to watch again and again as desired.

Jones has dedicated her career to reducing HIV/AIDS among young, urban Black and Latina women, the two ethnic groups with the highest levels of infection. Part of her focus for this campaign is to hopefully change behavior among these groups of women.
"I had very bright, wonderful patients who would come to me again and again with sexually transmitted infections," she said. She said the women understood that they were being exposed to HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, but engaged in unprotected sex anyway; even those who knew they weren't in monogamous relationships didn't insist their partners wear condoms."We have to normalize condom use," she said.
The plan is if the soap opera campaign is effective, Jones and her team will dedicate their efforts to mass distributing the DVDs with the soap opera videos. We look forward to positive results from the campaign. Should more women adopt the idea for consistent condom usage, that would drastically reduce the rate at which HIV is transmitted, especially among Black and Hispanic women.

For further information on this new campaign and a description of the actual soap opera, check out the full article:


  The Drifter

January 4, 2009 at 11:03 PM


Thank You for your comment. I am pleased you liked that piece. It is one of my favorites.