Creating a health awareness campaign is an effective way to prevent the spread of diseases affecting your community. For example, community members can help prevent HIV transmission and create positive environments for people already infected by the virus by spreading the right information throughout the community. Here are some tips on planning an awareness campaign in your community.
- Work with respected community members to plan and conduct the awareness campaign, including local decision makers, religious leaders, traditional healers, midwives and other individuals in the health care field.
- Identify existing community groups and institutions working on the topic you want to address. Learn about the work they already are doing that could contribute to your campaign and assess their reputation in the community to decide if they can contribute positively to your campaign.
- Find out how people learn and to whom they listen. Find out what motivates the intended audience and what is important to them. How are health messages best conveyed? Who conveys them? Is a radio campaign a good idea to spread information?
- Use interpersonal communication to reinforce messages communicated through mass media. If you do organize a radio campaign, adding a person-to-person exchange of information can make a great deal of difference in how people remember and internalize the messages you want to communicate.
- Expect and accept initial resistance by community leaders and allow them to engage in conversation with you on their own terms. Avoid confrontation. However, you can support those who, in their efforts to affect change, may be willing to push the edge of social norms.
If you are creating an HIV/AIDS-focused awareness campaign, keep the following tips in mind:
- Identify perceptions of HIV/AIDS. How do people talk about HIV/AIDS and other sexual issues? Are people comfortable talking directly about sexual issues or do they talk about them indirectly? How susceptible do people believe themselves to be to AIDS? What are the beliefs about who gets AIDS? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you best shape your campaign.
- Use positive motivational messages. HIV/AIDS needs to be seen as a disease relevant to everyday life. Fear-based messages demonize those affected and are less likely to change behaviors.
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Adapted from information contained in the Peace Corps booklet HIV/AIDS: Integrating Prevention and Care into Your Sector.