What we learned this Valentine’s Day

Vicky Ramirez

Consultant, USAID ASSIST Project/URC

K4Health & IPPF Host Tweet Chat on the Sexual Transmission of the Zika Virus

When you think of the Zika virus, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Probably not a condom. Google searches about Zika spiked in 2016, but the related searches were mostly about symptoms. Out of the top 25 related searches, none of them included sexual transmission. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared Zika to be a sexually transmitted disease. But did everyone get the memo?

This Valentine’s Day, the Knowledge for Health project (K4Health) and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) hosted an informative bilingual Tweet Chat on the sexual transmission of the Zika virus. One hundred and forty-five (145) users participated in the hour-long session that reached over 700,000 people from around the world.

Here are some of the take-aways we fell in love with:

1. A one-stop shop for Zika resources

When looking for resources, you probably think of the WHO and CDC, but did you know that K4Health hosts a Zika Communication Network that houses all Zika-related resources and materials? Peruse through their gallery, and contact them to include your resources.

Check out what other organizations are doing:

  • “Helping facility & community-based health workers in #Haiti to understand sexual transmission & counsel clients” - @MCSPglobal
  • “FamplanJA is working to educate clients about Zika as well as providing brochures and posting posters in our clinics” - @FamplanJA
  • “We're amplifying correct information and ensuring that #ZikaCommunication about sexual transmission doesn't leave the public convo” - @DC_AMCHP
  • “ASSIST is working in 5 countries to respond to the #Zika epidemic” - @usaidassist
  • “HC3 is working w/govts of LAC countries to create national comm plans that address all modes of transmission” - @HealthCommCap

2. Prevention is not just a women’s health issue

One of the greatest challenges in confronting the Zika epidemic is that it’s difficult to detect — at least 80% of those infected do not show symptoms. Without the use of condoms, men can be silently spreading the virus. But what can we do to reach men with sexual transmission messaging?

  • “Create more male specific Zika materials like this from @HHSGov http://bit.ly/2k8sSnN” — @K4Health 
  • “Education about prevention in places with a large presence of men: police stations, fire stations, sports clubs, etc.” — @FamplanJA
  • See more responses here.

3. To reach adolescents, think innovatively

Tweet Chat participants echoed the sentiment that social media can play a powerful role in the fight against Zika. Just take a look at this example of how Facebook informed the Zika response in Brazil. We also love UNICEF’s social messaging innovation, U-Report reaching young people in developing countries. They've recently launched a U-Report on Zika prevention. What's more to love? David Beckham. Here's what others had to say:

  • “We cannot underestimate the power of social media” - @usaidassist
  • [SPANISH]: “Sexual education is a critical component in the fight against Zika” - @profamiliaRD
  • See more responses here

4. Thinking outside the ‘box’

We love this campaign launched by IPPF in partnership with Durex condom brand. You can watch their commercial here. Here are some other cool resources:

  • “@CDCgov’s fact sheets in three languages on #Zika & sexual transmission!” — @MCSPglobal
  • “We can learn important lessons from successful #Ebola messaging & apply to #ZikaCommunication” — @usaidassist
  • “@HHSGov created adaptable posters to inform clients of available FP services and sites http://bit.ly/2kXULmN” — @K4Health

5. Moving forward

With a myriad of campaigns, experiences, and responses, participants seemed to agree to be able to agree on one thing: “Don’t recreate the wheel: Find and adapt resources on the Zika Communication Network http://bit.ly/2dDIiSm — @K4Health

  • See all closing remarks here.

What is your organization doing? And which campaigns have you found the most interesting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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