Stellenbosch University
Welcome to Stellenbosch University
Photo novel about tik abuse now developed even further
Author: Pia Nänny
Published: 12/06/2018

Six months after Dr Burt Davis, lecturer at the Africa Centre for HIV/Aids Management at Stellenbosch University (SU), received his doctoral degree by designing a photo novel dealing with the health risks of using tik, he is hard at work to develop the product further to make it even more useful.​

Davis developed the photo novel “Spyt kom te laat" (“Better safe than sorry") in an attempt to address the tik problem in the Western Cape. The phenomenon of using photo novels to address health issues is especially popular in the USA.

As part of his research, Davis looked at which documents (brochures, etc.) about tik abuse were available in Afrikaans.

“I was quite shocked about how few documents were available and the translations were often very bad," he says.

Because he wanted to move away from a theoretical PhD and rather wanted to design a product that could be used practically, he decided to focus on the development of a photo novel that could form part of awareness and prevention campaigns in schools and health clinics.

“In South Africa, many products that convey health messages are developed without being empirically and scientifically tested. This photo novel is one of few products that wasn't only carefully thought out and planned, but also tested."

“I'm not naïve to think that that I will necessarily convince people to stop using drugs, but it is a good tool for creating awareness. I've received amazing feedback from community workers."

Davis is currently developing his photo novel even further by adding more information in a Q&A format to increase its efficiency and versatility.

“I'm in conversation with representatives of the Department of Higher Education as well as social workers in the Hermanus and Stellenbosch areas about how we can produce the photo novel cost-effectively and distribute it at clinics and schools in the Western Cape."

Earlier this year, he was approached by a wine farm in the area to distribute the photo novel there and it was also handed out to approximately 3 800 learners at 14 schools in the Richtersveld as part of a book project run by the “Vriende van Afrikaans" (Friends of Afrikaans) in conjunction with the ATKV.

Davis also plans to adapt the photo novel to experiment with further health communication outcome variables.

In the past six months, he presented several talks about his research, among others at the VIOT (Vereniging Interuniversitair Overleg Taalbeheersing) conference in the Netherlands and the South African Medical Research Council's biannual symposium on drug use.

For more information, contact Dr Burt Davis at or 021 808 3707.