Consortium Perspectives

No Longer Separate But Equal: Opportunities and Challenges of HIV/AIDS Communication with ARV Scale-Up

Communication for Social Change Consortium Participates in XV International AIDS Conference, July 11-16, 2004
Bangkok, Thailand
In Partnership with Panos Institutes and World Health Organization

Access for All

The conference theme, Access for All, reflects the need for all groups -- including scientists, community workers and leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors -- to have access to all resources developed after 20 years of living with the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

A principal focus of the CFSC Consortium at this meeting will be on the need for integrating treatment and prevention communication. The Consortium believes that we must find innovative ways to spark community-level dialogue -- privately and publicly -- among individuals and institutions so that all voices have access to the process of making decisions concerning treatment and prevention. Those most affected by HIV and AIDS must fully own or control the essential communication processes and effect policies that impact their lives.
For a description of the Consortium's mission, please see the Welcome letter on the home page.

Highlights of the CFSC Consortium Position on HIV/AIDS Communication

The Communication for Social Change Consortium position is that:

Effective communication strategies underpin - and are essential - to combating HIV/AIDS. While substantial investments in AIDS communication have been made, message-driven information campaigns still remain largely ineffective in addressing the tough communication challenges of this epidemic. New, more expansive communication strategies that provide voice to individuals and to community-based institutions are a critical step to changing societal norms, public values and private attitudes that can impede progress.

Communication for social change is an inclusive approach to building the capacity of affected people and their communities to use communication processes to begin to shift such societal norms and values about HIV/AIDS.

The response to this epidemic must be shaped by and be accountable to those most affected by it. With effective use of public and private dialogue, advocacy and community-based problem identification, those most affected by the pandemic can engage in collective decision making supported by communication strategies that they own. . Such approaches can help ensure that funding and implementation policies work best for affected populations.

As the global community gains access to increased funding to fight AIDS, we must also demand increased focus and financial investment in communication conducted by the people and communities most affected.

Effective HIV/AIDS prevention strategies must focus as much on creating an enabling communication environment for people in affected societies as in targeting messages to them. An enabling communication environment is one that nurtures free and open dialogue on issues that most concern the people themselves and builds their capacity to effectively articulate their concerns and perspectives to those in a position to respond -- including government, donor and multilateral organisations.

Increased availability of antiretroviral treatments, and new campaigns such as the 3 X 5 initiative, bring fresh hope for people with HIV-- and new opportunities to integrate prevention communication with treatment communication. People living with AIDS do not - and cannot - separate the two. Immediate opportunities include the chance to influence thousands more people to know their status and to work together on communication strategies designed to overcome stigma.

No effective HIV/AIDS communication strategy will be successful unless it is embedded in a broader context that recognises that the spread of HIV is inextricably linked to a dialogue about the broader issues of discrimination, stigma, marginalisation and poverty.