|HIV/AIDS and Communication for Behavioural and Social Change: Programme Experiences, Examples, and the Way Forward (UNAIDS, 2001, 68 p.)|
The present report synthesises the deliberations of a workshop on Communication for Behaviour and Social Change: Programme Experiences, Examples, and the Way Forward, organised by UNAIDS Department of Policy, Strategy and Research (PSR) and the Secretariat of the International Partnership Against AIDS in Africa (IPAA) in Geneva in July, 2000.
The workshops objectives were (1) to map out strategies for implementation of communication programmes for behaviour and social change, using newly-emerging directions from UNAIDS, Co-sponsors, and other organisations, (2) to strengthen linkages between communication programmes and priority issues in HIV/AIDS in developing countries, and (3) to increase technical soundness in communication programmes, projects, and strategies of organisations working in the realm of HIV/AIDS.
Some 67 participants with responsibility for communication-related programmes from UNAIDS, its Co-sponsors, other UN agencies, and other international, regional and in-country organisations, including policy-makers, programme managers, technical advisors, scholars, and Foundation officials participated in the workshop.
Workshop activities, which broadly centred around a discussion of the role of communication in behaviour and social change aspects of HIV/AIDS, included (1) information-sharing (2) experience-sharing (3) discussion of the UNAIDS Communication Framework for HIV/AIDS: A New Direction, and (4) identification of high priority issues in HIV/AIDS programmes and the role of communication in supporting such programmes.
Workshop participants recognised that communication programming represents a key ingredient in the social vaccine against HIV/AIDS, given that AIDS in many respects is a disease of ignorance and intolerance. However, communication was recognised as a necessary but not a sufficient condition for either preventing HIV/AIDS, or for augmenting care and support programmes. Workshop participants believed that individual responses to HIV/AIDS are strongly influenced and shaped by societal norms, by ones gender and socio-economic status, by ones spiritual values, and by the prevailing governmental and policy environment related to HIV/AIDS.
While deliberating on the UNAIDS communication framework, workshop participants stressed the overwhelming importance of having a nationally-driven agenda for HIV/AIDS, one that requires the persistent engagement of the highest levels of government. Further, communication programmes should especially attend to the needs of those individuals and communities that constitute the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder, who are the most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. Workshop participants further believed that communication programmers have often viewed culture as being static, and mistakenly looked upon peoples health beliefs as cultural barriers. They emphasised that culture should also be viewed for its strength, and that those attributes of a culture that are positive for the conduct of HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and support programmes should be identified and harnessed. Participants also expressed the view that gender relations should be at the heart of any communication strategy for HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and support, especially as women are more vulnerable to HIV, more stigmatised, and the least empowered to control their environment. Finally, workshop participants emphasised that HIV/AIDS communication programmes should harness peoples spiritual domains.
Overall, workshop participants agreed to look at the UNAIDS communication framework not as a readymade prescription, but rather as a flexible guide, that facilitates local ownership in operationalizing and implementing the framework. Workshop participants emphasised the need for communication specialists and programme implementers to revisit their current initiatives to see how the five contextual domains of the UNAIDS communication framework could influence their programme strategies.
Several recommendations about the role of communication for behaviour and social change in HIV/AIDS programmes emerged from the workshops deliberations, viz.:
Recommendation #1. Communication for behaviour and social change should address the full HIV/AIDS continuum of prevention, care, and support.
Recommendation #2. Communication for behaviour and social change is most effective when integrated with a cross-disciplinary approach, drawing upon knowledge of epidemiology, anthropology, sociology, information science, psychology, and community development.
Recommendation #3. Communication for behaviour and social change should promote provision, access to, and use of various services and products.
Recommendation #4. Communication for behaviour and social change should be planned and implemented on a sustained, coherent, and long-term basis.
Recommendation #5. Communication for behaviour and social change should address regional, country, and community specificity.
Recommendation #6. Communication for behaviour and social change needs to incorporate aspects of research, monitoring and evaluation.
Recommendation #7. There should be increased advocacy for, and visibility of, communication for behaviour and social change initiatives, including their contributions, among UNAIDS Co-sponsors and other implementing agencies.
Workshop participants also emphasized that communication programmes should make a more concerted effort to involve the private sector in HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and support activities. Further, participants emphasized the need for (1) evaluating the impact of communication programmes on HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and support, and (2) developing new indicators that go beyond the traditional measurement of individual-level behavioural changes to measure changes at the social-systemic level.
HIV/AIDS and Communication for Behaviour and Social Change: Programme Experiences, Examples, and the Way Forward1.
1 I thank Dr. Collins O. Airhihenbuwa, Professor of Bio-Behavioural Health at Penn State University, and Bunmi Makinwa, Communication Adviser, UNAIDS, Geneva, for their feedback on a draft version of this report. I also thank each workshop participant for contributing ideas, experiences, and voices to this report.
By mid-2000, an estimated 40 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS; some 20 million people had died, leaving behind 15 million AIDS orphans (UNAIDS, 2000a). How can this rising tide of human devastation resulting from AIDS be stemmed? What role can communication play in this endeavour?