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AFRO-NETS> The Drum Beat - 122 - Effective HIV/AIDS Communication?
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> The Drum Beat - 122 - Effective HIV/AIDS Communication?
- From: Warren Feek <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Sat, 1 Dec 2001 12:01:14 -0500 (EST)
The Drum Beat - 122 - Effective HIV/AIDS Communication?
There is considerable debate and enquiry concerning the most effec-
tive communication strategies for addressing HIV/AIDS issues. James
Deane, Executive Director of The Panos Institute, prepared a back-
ground paper on this theme for the recent Communication for Develop-
ment Roundtable <http://www.comminit.com/roundtable2>, held in Mana-
gua, Nicaragua, Nov 26 - 28 2001, and hosted by UNFPA. Links below
are to the relevant sections of the paper. The full paper begins at:
We are interested in both your reactions and your perspectives on the
most effective HIV/AIDS Communication. See the end of the issue for
initial questions and how to contribute.
WHAT'S NEW, WHAT'S NOT?
1. The last 2 years have seen intense debate over different ap-
proaches to HIV/AIDS communication. In particular, there has been a
growing questioning of social marketing and behaviour change oriented
communication... two developments...have focused debate on this area,
the...publication of a new framework on Communication produced by
UNAIDS, [and]...the work of the Rockefeller Foundation [Communication
for Social Change (CSC)]...
2. The UNAIDS Framework calls for refocusing communication interven-
tions on the basis of 5 key contextual domains: (1) government pol-
icy, (2) socio-economic status, (3) culture, (4) gender relations,
and (5) spirituality. [It] calls for moving away from individual-
level theories and models of preventive health behaviours...to more
multilevel, cultural, and contextual explanations and interven-
Also see - http://www.comminit.com/st2001/sld-3464.html
3. The principles and approach of CSC have been summarised as moving
communication frameworks on HIV/AIDS...away from people as the ob-
jects for change...on to people as the agents of their own change;
away from designing, testing and delivering messages...on to support-
ing dialogue and debate on the key issues of concern; away from a fo-
cus on individual behaviours...on to social norms, policies, culture
and a supportive environment; away from technical experts in "out-
side" agencies dominating the process...on to the people most af-
fected by the issues of concern playing a central role.
Also see - http://www.comminit.com/SocialChange/sld-2181.html
SO, IS THIS NEW & DOES IT MATTER?
4. Specific criticisms of these approaches tend to fall into 4 areas:
* Participatory, people centred communication has been at the core of
most mainstream communication thinking and practice for many years...
* Some of these arguments are creating artificial boundaries between
different approaches and schools of thought in communication...
* While the UNAIDS & Rockefeller...arguments have emerged largely
from practitioners on the ground...they are weak when it comes to
backing [them] up with rigorous academic analysis, modelling and the-
* Many of the ideas in documents such as the UNAIDS Framework are
difficult to translate into practice on the ground, particularly
within the setting of large institutions...
5. Proponents acknowledge some of these criticisms. Nevertheless,
* Both the UNAIDS & Rockefeller processes were centred on largely
southern based, grassroots and civil society focused and driven de-
bates...[and] they appear to have revealed a "disconnect" between
funding and some international agencies, and indigenous organisations
working on the ground...
* Systematically putting the principles of participatory communica-
tion into practice on the ground continues to be rare and much
HIV/AIDS programming has been highly vertical...
* Unless developing country societies and communities are setting and
driving the underlying processes of change that are necessary to con-
front this epidemic...future progress...is unlikely to be sustain-
* There is increasing interest in learning from and adapting the rig-
orous thinking that goes into behaviour change oriented interventions
to communication for social change thinking...
* CSC is suggesting a major change in approach which involves insti-
tutions surrendering their agendas...
* Many communication initiatives are overly focused on the symptoms
of the HIV/AIDS pandemic (sexual behaviours), rather than the under-
lying causes (discrimination, marginalisation, disempowerment, ine-
A CHANGING ENVIRONMENT
6. Although communication technologies have dominated the discourse
around recent developments in information and communications, there
have [also] been fundamental changes in the wider communication envi-
* New technologies, principally in the form of the internet and mo-
bile telecommunications, are creating new opportunities for dissemi-
* A major liberalisation of the media in the developing world, trans-
forming...print and broadcast media from a largely government owned,
monopolistic and uncreative environment to a more dynamic, popular,
democratic, creative and complex one...
* Liberalisation has led...to the emergence of [a] consumer led...
urban centred communication infrastructure, one...less interested in
the concerns of the poor, and...decreasingly interested in providing
news and information to its audiences...
* State run broadcasting systems have found it difficult to trans-
form...into public broadcasting entities...
* Globalisation and transnational ownership of the media is resulting
in...increasing numbers of mainstream developing country media insti-
tutions being bought by transnational conglomerates...
* Women continue to suffer marginalisation in and from communication
HIV BECOMES POLITICAL AGAIN: TREATMENT, STIGMA, MEN
7. Since the beginning of the epidemic...civil society and AIDS sup-
port organisations in developing countries have struggled to make
their voice heard internationally... [and unlike those formed around
issues of women's rights, an] international HIV/AIDS civil society
coalition has not emerged...perhaps because there was not a clear is-
sue around which concrete demands for action could be made...
8. At the end of the 1990s, that issue potentially emerged in the
form of access to treatment for HIV/AIDS. Arguably for the first
time, organisations in the South were able to set their own agenda,
demands and priorities... Millions of people in South Africa, Brazil
and elsewhere who...formerly regarded the issue of HIV/AIDS as one of
public health and sexual behaviour have been drawn into a debate
marking it out as an issue of economic justice and human rights. In-
ternational lobbying has led to...concessions by international phar-
maceutical companies to reduce the prices of ARVs
and...to...concessions over intellectual property rights at the WTO.
9. A growing movement to confront HIV/AIDS related stigma is taking
on a new profile and energy. UNAIDS has designated the issue as the
focus of the next World AIDS Campaign.
CHALLENGE: IMMEDIATE ACTION OR NECESSARY REFLECTION?
10. 2 responses are facing communicators:
* The "emergency" response - the epidemic is now so devastating that
we need to rapidly scale up the time, resources and energies putting
the strategies we've already developed into action on the ground, and
less time theorising...
* Reflection leading to long term strategic action - it is the demand
for quick, measurable results that has created a field made up of
large, donor driven, top down communication interventions which
have...proved both unsustainable in securing behaviour change and
have not addressed the underlying causes of the epidemic...and, that
the increasing complexity of developing country societies, prompted
by greater liberalisation, and more complex media systems and hori-
zontal communication patterns in society demand fresh thinking and
Should we accelerate an emergency response? Or is it time to assess
the strategies used so far?
Should we continue with a predominantly behavioural approach with an
emphasis on sexual behaviour? Or should we expand the cultural and
CSC based strategies proposed by the UNAIDS & Rockefeller networks?
Does the changing communication environment in most countries demand
a change in strategy? Or can we adapt the present strategies to that
Should HIV/AIDS communication strategies become less or more politi-
Have you discussed these issues within your organisation? We would
like to know your thinking. Please send insights to
Warren Feek <email@example.com>
The Drum Beat seeks to cover the full range of communication for de-
velopment activities. Inclusion of an item does not imply endorsement
or support by The Partners.
Please send material for The Drum Beat to
Deborah Heimann <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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