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  • Futures Group [USA] in association with USAID/PEPFAR and the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland

The Task:

Create significant demand nationwide for voluntary adult male medical circumcision as an HIV prevention tactic in a country where circumcision is not the cultural norm.



Our Role:

To stem the prevalence of HIV in one of the world’s worst affected countries,, USAID and the Swazi Ministry of Health set an ambitious goal of medically circumcising 90% of the men aged between 15 and 50 over a period of 12 months. Matchboxology’s task was to partner with the medical logistics and programme designers to generate a demand strategy and campaign to overcome cultural bias and achieve these goals.

A Matchboxology designed 4-day synerfocus/incubation workshop began the process with key government and health organizations –extracting a wide variety of valuable cultural insights efficiently. The process identified a path through structural barriers, devised strategies to deal with negative attitudes and behaviours and inspired the project team to articulate its purpose: Soka Uncobe (Circumcision Conquers).

Evidence based local and international research from UNAIDS, WHO, USAID and others informed Matchboxology communication design experts. The team brought the brand to life through traditional and non-traditional media, innovative “Industry-focused” advocacy initiatives and ultimately through the education and deployment of celebrity circumcision champions from the King’s Court, government, music and television.

Video ethnography was deployed twice during the campaign to assess on-the-ground impact of the campaign and inform messaging and activation adjustments. As a result, world-first reality TV adverts were produced: viewers followed two different celebrities through their individual circumcision decision process, medical operation and healing.


After less than 6 months, research measured 91% of Swazis of the Soka Uncobe brand and able to articulate the key HIV prevention benefits of medical male circumcision.

In spite of this success, the project did NOT deliver the desired number of circumcisions.

Sometimes failure is also a success: in this case Matchboxology delivered evidence that cultural norms are not easily or rapidly changed even when logical scientific arguments are presented and well understood.

What the client saw:

  • Interactive Stakeholder Process To Achieve Strategy Alignment
  • Brand identity Design
  • Communications & Media Strategy
  • Creative Campaign Design and Media Placement
  • One-on-One Communications Strategy and Field Force Management
  • Rapid turnaround under pressure

What Matchboxology saw:

  • Need to tie together myriad HIV prevention and treatment strategies and organisations
  • Opportunities to achieve quick wins based on Human Truths Analysis
  • Critical Teambuilding and Strategy Alignment Incubation need
  • Innovation opportunities in messaging and media
  • Importance of the team embracing a learning mindset


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