The Intruder - Radio Soap Operas Teach Local Communities About Sexual Health

Jan 7, 2011 12:00 PM ET

Radio Soap Operas Teach Local Communities About Sexual Health

  By Sarah Grainger, BBC

In a modest breeze-block house in a village in Guatemala’s chilly and damp Western highlands, Aura Garcia tunes her small radio every Saturday morning to 93.7FM Radio Arco Iris which broadcasts the soap opera ‘El Intruso’ (the Intruder).

Aura is 17-years-old and a member of one of Guatemala’s indigenous Maya communities, which make up over half of the country’s population but whose members mostly live in poor, rural areas. Her mother tongue is Mam and she dresses in the traditional blouse and skirt of the Maya, heavily embroidered with a rainbow of bright colors.

For over a year Aura has been faithfully listening to the radio show and following the stories of Yon Maycol, a womanizing tuk-tuk driver and his girlfriend, Inocencia, wily Felipe and studious Lesly, the daughter of a single mother.

Like any soap opera, there is intrigue, romance and conflict. But ‘El Intruso’ carries important public health messages as well. Yon Maycol, the local Lothario who has spent time in the US, is persuaded to take an HIV test before he begins dating his latest girlfriend Inocencia. Felipe woos Lesly who knows little about contraceptives and ends up pregnant, as her mother had done. In later episodes Felipe discovers he is HIV positive, develops AIDS and eventually dies from pneumonia.

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