Nepal’s first cases of HIV were reported in 1988. Since that date, HIV and AIDS have affected every group and every sector of Nepali society: families and educational institutions, communities and individuals, the economy and culture. But HIV infection defies most traditional development methods. Equal Access’ radio programs are an acception. Since 2001, Equal Access’ radio show Saathi Sanga Manka Kura (SSMK), Nepal’s most popular radio program, has been breaking the taboos of Nepali culture and society: SSMK was the first show to talk openly about sex, drugs, and intimacy and gain the trust of Nepal’s young people to become a trusted voice that inspired them to change their behavior and make informed decisions.
Equal Access now reaches all of the most at-risk and most HIV affected populations in Nepal, including sex workers, men abroad, and housewives who might never step outside their own front door. Listeners to these programs not only report that they learn about methods of transmission but can also talk about this knowledge in the context of their own lives and the risks they face that lead them to HIV infection. Young people know that interpersonal relationships can create a stable network that will help them avoid HIV infection and women and men in poor, rural areas know that marital rape and unsafe sexual practices while abroad will increase their risk.
In June 2010, Equal Access won the coveted One World Media Special Award that is given to one outstanding media production from the developing world each year. The award was given to Samajhdari, which explored the intersection between Violence against Women and HIV. You can read more about the award here and read an essay by Jaya Luintel, Samajhdari producer, here.