By Roy Barford
Educating teenagers about sex and HIV and Aids has never been a pleasant job. That is, until legendary satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys decided to take on the challenge.
Schools around Durban were this week entertained and educated by the straight-talking entertainer.
"I grew up being told about the 'birds and the bees', and I'm sorry, but how does a bird fuck a bee?" asked Uys, causing fits of laughter from 1 000 schoolgirls at Durban Girls' High School.
Uys said many of the problems surrounding HIV were due to society being afraid to discuss the issue.
"Sex happens, and Aids comes, because we cum (ejaculate), so let's talk about it."
The 61-year-old, arguably better known as his alter-ego, Evita Bezuidenhoudt, believes that to educate young South Africans about HIV, one needs to "speak their language".
He has been perfecting this for the past five years, during which he has given HIV talks at more than 750 schools.
Applying an approach infinitely more entertaining than the conventional distribution of HIV pamphlets, Uys is travelling the country at his own expense, addressing schools free of charge.
In between the humour and performing skits parodying individuals such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, Uys cuts to the core of the HIV problem, and several touches of seriousness make his point clear. He said that each time he addressed a school, he could feel the energy of the pupils, and found their responses hugely rewarding.
Speaking to the Tribune after receiving a standing ovation from the Girls' High audience, Uys said that if one pupil had learned something, he had made a difference.
"What I hope will happen is that each of the thousand girls here goes and tells three or four friends about what I said, and as a result, young people get talking about a topic they would normally avoid."
Uys said it was inevitable that he would become involved in HIV education.
"I have always performed satires about the problems faced by South Africans, and five years ago, when government denial about HIV started getting worse, I decided that it was time to get involved."
Uys has never been shy to have a go at politicians, and his talks about HIV are no different. "I find that it is so easy to make a political joke these days. You just mention an individual's name and people start laughing, because they immediately associate them with either a beetroot (Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang) or a shower cap (Jacob Zuma)."
Uys said that while many individuals and organisations in South Africa were trying their hardest to combat HIV and Aids, the messages being sent out rarely caught the attention of the youth. "I was giving a talk at a school in the Cape Flats a few years back, and mentioned something about 'oral sex'. Afterwards, two boys came up to me and asked, 'Is oral sex when you and the girl talk like you are having sex?'."
After Uys explained oral sex to the boys, they replied, "Ah, why didn't you just say blow-job?"
Uys encourages pupils to empower themselves with knowledge about sex and sexually transmitted diseases.
He said such information was far more easily obtainable now than it was when he was growing up.
"My first sexual experience happened when I was 14, and I was all by myself. I didn't know what had happened," he said, again causing hysterics.
Uys has been working on a play, Evita For President, which will be coming to Durban later this year. The play addresses the question of who will succeed Thabo Mbeki as president.
Uys said that while it was a serious issue, "we mustn't look away from it".