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'Listen to the Bell' Campaign Promotes Faithfulness in Tanzania


There are three very successful strategies individuals can use to avoid the sexual transmission of HIV: abstinence, faithfulness, and condoms. In Tanzania, both abstinence and condom use have figured prominently in the national conversation on HIV/AIDS. Faithfulness, however, does not – until now.

Sikia Kengele, or “Listen to the Bell” in Swahili, a new national communications initiative to encourage fidelity, is hoping to change this trend. “The Bell” urges Tanzanians to get tested for HIV and to be faithful to their partners. The program is part of AED’s Tanzania Marketing and Communication Project, or T-MARC.

Through the symbolism of the bell, the T-MARC Project, under the Center for Private Sector Health Initiatives, hopes to sound a wake-up call for sexual behavior change. The faithfulness message of Listen to the Bell will be targeted especially to high-risk areas of the country, including major transportation corridors and mining and plantation regions.

Faithfulness programs are not unique in East Africa. In nearby Uganda, the prevalence of HIV dropped from 15% in 1991 to 5% by 2001, and a faithfulness program proved to be major factor in this change.

“Fidelity is a powerful message when it’s communicated effectively and consistently,” said Margaret Burns Parlato, senior vice president and director of the Global Health, Population, and Nutrition Group. “Through the ‘Listen to the Bell’ campaign, AED is reaching out to the community on many different levels to change attitudes and behaviors.”

Through the Listen to the Bell campaign, community opinion leaders—such as politicians, religious and health leaders, and peer educators—will be designated “Bell Ringers.”

They will be charged with starting discussions about the risks associated with having multiple sexual partners and the benefits of knowing one’s HIV status and remaining HIV-free. Bell ringers will spread these messages in bars, stadiums, places of worship, farms, bus stations and other social gathering points.

In addition, communities will host a “Giant Bell,” an enormous golden bell that is part of a road show which includes music, dance, theater and cinema to spread the faithfulness message. Emcees will invite local community leaders, government officials, members of the media and others to ring the Giant Bell, calling on the community to wake up and make changes in norms and behaviors. Radio spots will air on three national stations to help these activities reach a wider audience.

“AED understands the importance of engaging and inspiring every member of the community to make this communications campaign a success for Tanzania,” said Parlato.

T-MARC is funded by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through the United States Agency for International Development. T-MARC supports the work of the Tanzania Commission for AIDS, and the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare’s National AIDS Control Program.

Posted March 2007

Read more about the Tanzania Marketing and Communications Project (T-MARC) project


Dee Bennett
AED Project Director

+1 (202) 884-8901
  Tara Geiger
AED Project Associate

+1 (202) 884-8334