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.
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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