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Perspective

Learning from HIV: Messaging Strategies to Cut Down COVID

December 1, 2021

Jennifer Carter

Decades of experience in HIV messaging strategies, what works and what doesn’t, can be applied to COVID-19 messaging to help improve outcomes in prevention efforts and in reducing transmission, note Jennifer Carter, MPH, and Margaret Dunne, MSc, researchers in Westat’s Public Health & Epidemiology Practice. In their Issue Brief Lessons Learned from HIV Messaging Can Help with COVID-19 Prevention Efforts (PDF), they provide a brief history of the HIV epidemic and outreach activities, and how a combination of communications efforts that were customized and applied to specific communities for better stakeholder buy-in, and, ultimately, improved health outcomes.

“Finding solutions to engage stakeholders and hard-to-reach populations about HIV in their communities is key,” explains Ms. Carter. “There is a lot of overlap when you examine the messaging issues and strategies of HIV and COVID.” Their issue brief details a multi-pronged approach to find the best way to engage individuals and communities.

Margaret Dunne

Different communities face specific barriers and being able to understand all perspectives is important, adds Ms. Dunne: “For a communication strategy to be successful to change health behaviors, you have to hear the concerns of the communities and understand their challenges.”

World AIDS Day, December 1, is acknowledged as a global health day, and the solutions from this decades-long challenge can be built on to help inform ways to eradicate new challenges, like COVID-19.

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