We B 3: It’s been awesome having a 3some with you.
Guys, WETHEBRAVE.co.za is celebrating its 3rd birthday, and we couldn’t have done it without you! So much has happened since we were just a teeny sperm-like sexual health idea in someone’s brain 3 years ago, to becoming the all-grown-up and awesome brand we are today. Here’s just some of what’s gone down over the last three years: When WETHEBRAVE.co.za kicked-off we hoped to mobilise all men who have sex with men (AKA you guys!) to make healthy sexual choices like wearing condoms, getting tested regularly and being #Braveenough to know your status. Today, our large-scale, national sexual health campaign has been (with Health4Men’s help) responsible for getting over 490 000 men to be tested at our Health4Men services clinics, giving over 12 000 men access to HIV treatment and sharing 33 of YOUR Brave Stories on our website and social media platforms.
One of you guys, Monde Ngwane, a student who chairs a forum at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) College of Health Sciences, shared the following feedback with us: “A lot of people have now been enlightened about health tips, sexual safety and the resources available to them through WETHEBRAVE.co.za, particularly because of the way that the information is packaged and distributed. This is changing the way that we, as a community, relate to and access information.” And a fellow student from UKZN, Sthembiso Mkhize, told us that he first heard about the WETHEBRAVE.co.za campaign at an event held on campus. “They taught us about having safe sex, how to use condoms and how we could access medical services for our sexual health. Because of the way that they shared the information, I was able to listen properly and now I practice safe sex.”
Over the past three years, WETHEBRAVE.co.za has talked about HIV prevention and treatment issues in an affirming, non-judgemental and sex-positive way that is also entertaining and engaging. One of the sexy ways we did this was by teaming up with fashion designer Stiaan Louw to design a limited-edition range of underwear for a campaign called ‘Cover Your Butt’. This coincided with the announcement that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication was readily available in South Africa. If taken daily, by HIV-negative individuals, PrEP can drastically reduce the chances of HIV infection. The campaign explained that HIV prevention could become as easy and routine as changing your underwear.
WETHEBRAVE.co.za is working hard to stamp out the stigma that still surrounds lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people – one of the biggest reasons people don’t get tested. Nina Morris Lee, our Head of Marketing shares: “One of the most memorable events was the flighting of one of our ads featuring two men kissing after Carte Blanche one Sunday evening. Despite the backlash received, including complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority, we were #Braveenough to stand up against stigmatism in the hope that others will too.”
With South Africa’s LGBT community still facing discrimination, abuse and even violence, WETHEBRAVE.co.za celebrates your bravery for being proud of who you are in spite of the challenges you face, by sponsoring Pride Festivals around the country, where hundreds of you have been #BraveEnough to get tested for HIV.
So many of you, like Camille von Zuush, Miss Drag South Africa 2017, have bravely shared your stories right here on our website. On her experience of the WETHEBRAVE.co.za campaign, she says: “I was at the initial launch and from that point I was sold. They have so many innovative ideas about how to bring across their message and how to address different issues faced by the LGBT community.”
She shares that her decision to tell her story was due to there being so many people who are still in the closet in terms of their sexuality and scared of coming out or meeting like-minded people. “WeTheBrave lets you discover a community on your own terms and, when you’re ready, are there to support you.”
Singer Kallie (AKA Kellan) Kotze, who also shared his story and stance on the hate crimes still happening in South Africa with us, says that after it was published he felt that he could freely be who he is and say what he feels. “I have gained tremendous respect from industry experts, partly due to myself taking a stance and being brave!” He adds: “My story needed to be heard as there are so many teens going through what I went through and I wanted to emphasise the truth that everything will be okay. We’ve come a long way, but there is always room for improvements – tactless mind-sets and stereotyping must finally come to an end!”
A major coup for WETHEBRAVE.co.za was having music legend and AIDS activist, Sir Elton John mentioning us at the #AIDS2016 international conference. He also championed us in person by visiting one of the community clinics linked to the campaign, together with his husband, David Furnish and the Minister of Health, Aaron Mostoaldi.
“With accomplishments like these, we are well on our way to achieving our goals of ensuring that MSM have the knowledge and opportunities to prevent new HIV infections; understand the benefits of regular HIV testing to know their status; use antiretroviral treatment when and if they need it; and take PrEP to reduce their chances of HIV infection if they are HIV-negative but at-risk. We look forward to reaching and empowering many more men with this progressive and sex-positive campaign,” concludes Morris Lee.