The project, a social marketing programme for HIV/Aids prevention,
that seeks to encourage condom use among all sexually active
people, was launched on Tuesday night at Kapok Hotel. It is
an initiative of Population Services International and its
Caribbean affiliate Society for Family Health. Cowal is the
vice-president of PSI, responsible for Latin America, the
Caribbean and the United States.
PSIs campaign is modern and edgy, geared specifically
to the youth. Apart from print, radio and television advertisements
that encourage behaviour change towards sex and condom use,
the campaign includes T-shirts with the tag line If He Wont,
Then You Dont. The campaigns official slogan is:
Got it? Get it? The words are included in the yellow and black
logo symbolic of caution.
media ad campaign is directed at young people. Young people
are not attracted to doom or gloom. There are no skulls and
crossbones in it and its not preachy. This is made to
involve young people. And we are particularly worried about
the less educated and less informed, said Cowal, who
is based in Washington. PSIs regional office, located
in Woodbrook, is headed by American Pamela Faura.
The most important component of the campaign is the availability
of condoms in non-traditional places such as clubs, bars and
are making condoms a cool thing to have, Cowal said,
speaking to WomanWise hours before the launch.
Asked if she was prepared for a possible backlash from those
who promote abstinence over condom use, Cowal said its
not the first time she would be in a controversial position
like to think I have a good reputation in T&T. Some of
the things I said in the past were controversial, but true.
No ones forcing condoms on anybody. We are making people
who wish to use condoms able to do so, she said. We
are in 65 countries across the world. We talk about the ABCs.
You need to talk about abstinence. Evidence shows if they
dont have sex till theyre older, theyll
have less sex. We tell them to be faithful, have fewer partners,
or be monogamous.
human nature is human nature and thats not just in T&T,
but T&T is like a good student, it works hard and parties
hard and for many, partying hard means having sexual relations
so they have to use condoms, she said, stating that
the problem with people who pushed abstinence was their use
of the word only.
controversial even in the US. The religious groups have been
pushing the government to go abstinence only. When anyone
thinks they have the only truth and are unwilling to subject
that truth to scientific tests, then they are putting the
public at risk. Theres no evidence whatsoever that putting
condoms in peoples hands increases sex. The people who
want to have sex, want to have sex, she said.
Cowal, who worked as the deputy director of UNAids after she
left T&T in 1995, said she has had a lot of conversations
with the Catholic Church and while a lot of people in the
Church do not approve of condoms as contraception, they accept
it if it is to protect human life.
She spoke of a Catholic priest in Africa who gave out condoms.
said every morning he came to say mass and there were fewer
people because they were all dying with Aids. He said he saw
the world with two eyes. One eye saw the ideal world, the
other saw what was happening under his nose. I always thought
that was really good.
Stressing that everything has to be evidence based, Cowal
said that in T&T, six times as many young women are infected
with HIV than men.
does that say? That older men are seeking younger girls to
have sex with. Our campaign is also aimed at those men, its
cross-generational. They need to check their behaviour. We
are trying to show people their double standards. Societal
behaviour has to change, she said.
Cowal said that although current HIV/Aids infection in T&T
is at three per cent, that figure could easily jump to 30
afraid in two to three years, Ill come back and itll
be four per cent, said Cowal who lamented the increased
crime rate since her last visit four years ago.
That was in 2002, when Cowal was invited by the American Chamber
of Commerce, which she founded in 1992, to deliver the feature
address at its tenth anniversary gala.
At the time, Cowal was president of the Cuba Policy Foundation
which aimed to end the US trade embargo on Cuba and restore
diplomatic relations between the two countries. In an interview
with this reporter, she expressed a belief then that trade
relations would bring about democratic reform on Castros
we spoke, the Bush policy towards Cuba kept getting tighter
and Fidel kept getting worse. I didnt want to keep banging
my head on wall.
had an invitation from PSI and I took it up three and a half
years ago. I just keep reinventing myself and finding things
I am passionate about.
is one of the largest and more established non-profit, social
marketing organisations in the world. The organisation utilises
novel marketing strategies influenced by a private sector
approach to change the health of people across the world.
Apart from HIV/Aids, PSI also works to address malaria, diarrhoea
and mineral deficiencies particularly among the poor.
The Caribbean social marketing programme launched on Tuesday
is currently being implemented in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados,
the Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Monsterrat, St Kitts
and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.
The campaign is managed by PSIs regional office which
has been based in T&T for a year.
The project is funded by Pan Caribbean Partnership in collaboration
with the Canadian International Development Agency.
For more info visit www.psi.org