Nowadays, a lot of people are using Instagram to promote their businesses, promote brands and to post their favourite selfies except for Instagram influencer, Thandeka Hlongwa, who is using her platform to educate her 15 000-plus followers on HIV/Aids.
The KwaZulu-Natal journalism graduate wants to educate millennials and post-millennials about the taboo subject and stigma that often surrounds the illness. She is a certified digital marketer from the Durban University of Technology (DUT).
“These issues are not under-exposed per see, but the way in which these issues are pre-packaged is out of tune and out of reach for people within the ages of 23 to 35,” said Hlongwa.
Hlongwa initially had an influencer contract with MTV Shuga, a coming-of-age drama series broadcast on MTV Base. However, due to the lockdown, the show took a web series approach called #AloneTogether.This series highlights topics like gender-based violence (GBV) and the stigma attached to HIV, as well as COVID-19.
She worked with MTV and B Wise, the Department of Health’s website designed to educate youth on health-related topics. The collaboration between MTV and B Wise Health is to help spread positive messages about sex and everything related to it, which includes HIV.
“I think what makes my page possibly original is that you see me still being a 23-year-old while talking about these things. Whereas if it were a page with just statistics it would be boring. A human touch adds to it,” said Hlongwa.
Smiso Msomi, who is a part of South Africa’s Brother for Life campaign, hosts a second #AloneTogether video said this addresses the risks associated with alcohol abuse, GBV and HIV. He was invited by Hlongwa to inform viewers on what each drug is for, how often they should be taken and when. Msomi provides an informative video on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and antiretrovirals (ARV).
Somizi Mhlongo’s husband, Mohale Motaung is also part of the MTV Shuga Down South and MTV Shuga #AloneTogether video series. His videos discuss testing, as well as how to deal with testing HIV positive. He covers the cautionary steps you can take when testing negative.