Take Care Not to Get Burned!
One of the goals of the Romanian Family Health Initiative (RFHI) was to empower young people to take control of their reproductive health. A captive audience presented itself along Romania's Black Sea coast, where, during the summer months, resort towns are overrun with vacationers who bask in the sun, enjoy restaurants and cafes, and dance at discos until dawn. The fact that the majority of these vacationers are youth was not lost on the RFHI partners Youth for Youth, SECS (Society for Education on Contraception and Sexuality), and ARAS (Romanian Anti-AIDS Association), who came together and launched "Take Care Not to Get Burned."
"Take Care Not to Get Burned" was a summer health education campaign that raised awareness among youth (ages 15–25) about the risks of unprotected sex. The campaign, which ran for five summers (2002–2007), owed its success to 40 dedicated volunteers from SECS, ARAS, and Youth for Youth, who, for six weeks each summer, educated their peers on the Black Sea coast. Outfitted in bright orange uniforms displaying the campaign logo, they would wake early, walk the beach handing out informational brochures and condoms, have interpersonal discussions, and lead interactive contests related to reproductive health knowledge. Each day ended in the discos, where volunteers distributed more condoms and danced with the crowds. As one volunteer said, "I like what I am doing because we are helping young people and we're doing it in a fun way."
Area businesses were eager to get involved. The "Take Care Not to Get Burned" launch party was held at a disco and featured performances from popular Romanian bands. The DJ pledged support by dedicating every summer Saturday night to the campaign. Vacationers saw banners in many places and heard radio spots advertising the campaign and talking about ways to 'avoid getting burned'.
It was common to see young people gathered around a tent in the middle of the beach, engaged in games that emphasized safe sex, and to see people tanning while reading the information they received from the peer educators.
But not all the action took place at the beach and in the discos. A drama group from ARAS did a performance about AIDS at camps for area youth. They led contests related to HIV and AIDS and distributed condoms, t-shirts, and educational materials.
In the summer of 2002, the campaign's first, 105,000 condoms and 160,000 brochures were distributed, and 48,050 youth were engaged in discussions related to reproductive health. That same summer, an NGO from Bulgaria, which shares the western coast with Romania, came to see the campaign. This led to one of many collaborations, and each year the "Take Care Not to Get Burned" campaign was more successful than the last, as more NGOs collaborated and more support was received.
In addition to condoms, youth were informed that emergency contraception was available at the local medical cabinet. This is what brought the campaign beyond informational. Accessible condoms and emergency contraception allowed youth to prevent STIs and unplanned pregnancies, ultimately taking control of their reproductive health while at the seaside.
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