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close this bookSummary Booklet of Best Practices in Africa - Issue 2 (UNAIDS, 2000, 116 p.)
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View the documentStraight Talk (Uganda)

Straight Talk (Uganda)

Starting Year: 1993
Main Topic Area: School-based interventions and services
Other Topic Areas: Communications programming · Reproductive health Male condoms · Children and young people

Contact Person:
Ms. Anne Akia, Programme Director
Ms. Catherine Watson, Editorial Director
Phone: +256 41 543 025 or 543 884
Fax: +256 41 543 884
Email: or
Web Site:

Straight Talk Foundation
P.O. Box 22366


Straight Talk Foundation is a communications NGO based in Kampala.


Funders include UNICEF, Sida, DANIDA, Save the Children Alliance, USAID (through Population Services International), the Ford Foundation, the Department for International Development, UK (DFID), and the European Union (from 2000).


The goal is to encourage adolescents to delay sexual activity and to adopt safer sexual behaviours once they do become active. The mission statement includes "keeping adolescents safe" and "communication for better health."


Straight Talk is a monthly four-page newsletter that targets secondary school students between the ages of 15 and 19 as well as young adults in colleges and universities (aged 20-24). The newsletter advocates safer sex, including abstinence, masturbation, non-penetrative sex, and condom use.

Its counterpart for younger people, Young Talk, is aimed at upper primary school pupils and young adolescents aged 10-14. Key topics include changes at puberty, a child's rights and responsibilities, and general body health and hygiene. Young Talk advocates abstinence, although information about condoms is provided if the children request it. Those who say they are sexually active are advised to reconsider their actions. In primary schools, teachers are encouraged to use Young Talk as a teaching tool.

Both publications take a strong moral stand against exploitative and manipulative relationships and advocate respect for family values.

The publications led to the creation of the Straight Talk Foundation, a communication NGO that produces information, education, and communication (IEC) materials for adolescents. Part of the foundation's mandate is to keep its target audience (Ugandan adolescents, aged 10-19, and young adults, aged 20-24) safe from STD/HIV infection.

Main Activities

The main activities are the publication of the two newsletters, Straight Talk and Young Talk, which are distributed free of charge throughout Uganda (see Outcomes).

Straight Talk is available in English, but is also translated into two local languages and published four times a year for out-of-school adolescents who have difficulties with English. In April 1999 a Straight Talk radio show was launched on two popular English FM stations. It is now on five FM stations and reaches almost countrywide. Local-language programmes are planned.

Both newsletters are published by professionals but are in fact "adolescent-driven." The information published in them is determined by the content of letters received from readers. Message content is periodically pretested among adolescents. The newsletters offer age-appropriate information on reproductive health, life skills, and rights for adolescents. In terms of HIV/AIDS preventive actions, they stress the delay of sexual activity and the importance of safer sex for those who are already sexually active.

The publications are complemented by visits by the Straight Talk team of doctors and other visitors to a dozen schools each term in about six districts. During a school visit, a team of adolescent-friendly doctors and counsellors spends the first two days sensitizing teachers about adolescent behaviour, body changes, and so on. The next two days are spent with 150 students from one school; the last two days with students from a second school. Students decide what topics they want to discuss. These range from love and sex to relationships with parents and the oppositive sex, STDs/HIV, body changes (menstruation, wet dreams, breast size, penis size) and life skills. Role plays based on several scenarios are enacted by students. The day ends with one-on-one counselling.

Another activity associated with the project is the almost 200 Straight Talk clubs that have been founded by students in schools throughout Uganda.


Straight Talk has a print run of 150,000 a month and is sent to 1,400 secondary schools. Young Talk has a print run of 270,000 per month and is also placed as an insert in the New Vision newspaper (40,000 copies); it is sent to 12,000 primary schools. In addition, about 130 large NGOs, 426 tertiary education institutions, 50 community groups and churches, 191 Straight Talk clubs formed by students, and 149 medical institutions receive the newsletters. The newsletter costs US$ 0.07 per copy but is distributed free of charge.

In terms of feedback, Straight Talk receives over 3,000 letters per year from readers.

Evaluation Findings

An evaluation in 1995 after 16 issues found that all secondary school students surveyed had seen Straight Talk. The evaluation found that 8 per cent of the 1,682 adolescents surveyed cited Straight Talk as their main source of information on HIV. Radio ranked first at 43 per cent.

Lessons Learned

The project has shown that it is possible for health educators to talk about sex, even in conservative societies. It is crucial to find the right tone, however, so as not to offend the existing culture, and for the information to be backed by correct medical facts. Other lessons learned include:

1. The information given to an audience must be supported by the teaching of practical life skills and values, otherwise it will not be of much use to the recipient.

2. Adolescent involvement in such work must be guided by properly prepared adults. Adolescents do want and need guidance, but at the same time, they and their opinions must be respected.

3. In order to maximize resources, it is important to use the cheapest means possible. In Straight Talk's experience, using newsprint instead of glossy paper has been very beneficial. Approximately ten people share a single copy of the newsletter.

4. Producing materials is only half the battle. It is important to place a great deal of effort and thought into the dissemination of materials produced, otherwise they will not reach the audience. To this end, it is important to have contacts with NGOs, newspapers and all forms of distribution outlets to establish a successful distribution network.

Further Reading

See the website at