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How to run HIV/AIDS prevention and education projects and campaigns

What is in this guide?

This guide teaches basic principles of campaigning and public education and applies them to the main tasks that should be done at local level. It has the following sections:

  1. Overall approach
  2. Targeting and message
  3. Public education
  4. Condom distribution
  5. Promoting openness
  6. Counselling and testing
  7. Focus on young people

This web site also contains the following guides on HIV/AIDS – click on the title to get to the guide you want:

Important things to know about HIV/AIDS

Introduction to community projects on HIV/AIDS

How to run HIV/AIDS prevention and education projects and campaigns

How to care for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families

How to care for children affected by HIV/AIDS

How to coordinate local community projects on HIV/AIDS

How to develop a municipal AIDS strategy

  1. Overall approach

Almost 80% of sexually active South Africans are not yet HIV positive. It is vital that we do everything we can to prevent new infections. Education and awareness campaigns, condom distribution and testing are important ways to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

We cannot afford to wait until large numbers of people are dying before we take action. We have to talk openly about HIV/AIDS and make sure that everyone understands the danger and the responsibility they have to protect themselves and their partners. The silence and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS must be broken and replaced by openness and compassion.

In this section, we look at how to run an effective prevention campaign. The aims of any prevention campaign should be to reduce the infection rate by doing the following:

In this section, we will share good ideas and experiences about these things. The next section of this chapter deals with target groups and message and section 3 describes good ways of doing education, condom distribution, awareness and testing.

  1. Targeting and message

Your campaigns and projects should reach the right people and get your message across clearly and strongly.


An HIV/AIDS prevention campaign should reach every person in our community in some way. In the previous section, we listed the things that should be done – education, changing behaviour, condom distribution, promoting openness and testing. Although we must try to reach everyone, we often do not have the resources to do so. Some groups are more likely to get HIV/AIDS and it is important to target the groups that will benefit most from each activity.

The part of the campaign that focuses on educating people about HIV/AIDs and changing sexual behaviour, should first target specific groups of people who are most vulnerable. Condoms should be directly distributed or made available to these target groups. They should be encouraged to go for counselling and testing. We must ask: "Who is most vulnerable to getting HIV/AIDS?"

The same people are most likely to spread the virus to other less vulnerable groups. It is for example more sensible to target young sexually active women than widows.

Our actions should target the following vulnerable groups:

Sex workers

For the parts of our campaign that creates awareness and openness, we should ask: "Who can most influence people’s attitudes?" People who are in leadership positions in our communities are already in touch with many people and can use their positions to influence others. When you want to change attitudes it is best to use people who are already respected – people will follow the example they set and will listen to their opinions. We should try to involve people like:

This does not mean we should ignore ordinary people – in the end we have to change attitudes everywhere. If you have the resources, target the community as a whole. If you do not have resources, work with the targets listed above because they can reach and influence other people.


A very important part of your campaign planning is the broad message you want to communicate and the slogan that sums it up. "Message " is the ideas we try to get across in everything we say and do. A campaign message is usually only a few sentences long, but it is used as the basis for all speeches, pamphlets, radio interviews, etc. The slogan you use is just a short way of summing up the message so you can put it on a poster or a T-shirt to make it popular. A campaign will have much more impact if the message is clear and if everyone involved keeps saying the same things. If a campaign is both national and local, it is important to create a campaign identity by using the same slogan and message.

Here are some examples of slogans:

    The Treatment Action Campaign encourages people to wear T-shirts with the slogan "HIV positive". This helps to bring HIV/AIDS awareness to the public and shows that people with HIV/AIDS are not ashamed.

    The Love Life campaign has many different slogans that appeal to young people. A common slogan is "Talk about sex". This encourages teenagers as well as their parents to talk openly about sex.

    The Department of Health encourages testing with the slogan: "I have been tested. I know."

Earlier slogans like "HIV/AIDS kills" were used on posters and billboards. It was used to scare people, but also had some negative effects and was abandoned. People living with HIV/AIDS found it very upsetting to see such a slogan everywhere. They also felt it made people scared of them and lead to discrimination. Be very careful and sensitive when you develop a slogan.

Examples of slogans and messages

On the importance of the struggle against HIV/AIDS:

Slogan: HIV/AIDS affects all of us


    All of us are affected when half the children in this country may never grow up, when a quarter of our workforce may die in the next decade, when millions of children without parents, basic care and education have to look after themselves. HIV/AIDS is our problem.

On prevention:
Slogan: ABC – Abstain, Be faithful or Condomise


On openness, support, care and an end to discrimination

Slogan: Together we can


On testing

Slogan: I have been tested. I Know.


Each organisation could add their own message themes, but it is important that we all try to reinforce the ones above. We should avoid situations where the public gets confused because organisations have totally conflicting messages.

  1. Public education

Public education programmes should aim to get to as many people as possible and to educate them about prevention and safe sex. Remember that we have to try to change behaviour and that we have to challenge sexist attitudes that lead to women abuse. It is also important to change attitudes about people living with HIV/AIDS and encourage non-discrimination and support. Always remember to select your target groups carefully and to stick to the message.

Most people in our society find it hard to openly talk about sex. Educators have to be trained to deal with issues simply and openly and to handle difficult audiences. All over the world "peer education" is the most popular method for HIV/AIDS education. This means using members of a target group to reach others in that group. For example, sex workers are trained to do education for their colleagues and truck drivers are trained to educate other truck drivers. When you use "peer educators" it is easy for them to understand the group’s culture and to gain the trust of their peers.

Try to also involve people living with HIV/AIDS as speakers and trainers in all public education work. This will help to break the silence. Be prepared to face some prejudice and ignorance and try to deal with it constructively and calmly. Always send at least two people to any event so that they can help each other to deal with difficult questions or hostile people.

Here are some of the methods you can use to do public education:


Ask schools, churches, organisations and workplaces in your area if you can send a speaker to talk about HIV/AIDS. Speeches/talks should be about 30 minutes long and you should leave lots of time for questions. Use the information in Chapter 8 as the basis for a speech. Also, tell people what their rights are and where they can go for help. Make sure to train all your speakers so that they understand the issues, the message themes and can answer difficult questions.


A workshop can be a few hours long and is a good way to educate people. Workshops give people a chance to discuss issues in more detail. Try to make the workshop exciting and participatory – no one wants to sit and listen to a long lecture. [See workshop outline on page 12].

Workshops are more difficult to handle and your trainers or facilitators should be trained to run them. Always send inexperienced people with experienced people until they build confidence.

Plays, songs and music

Culture can be a very effective way of getting your message across to people who do not want to sit in meetings or workshops. Involve local cultural groups in developing education programmes. You can also organise cultural or talent competitions for schools and youth groups.

Community meetings

Use meetings of interested people from your community or from a specific target group, where people come together to discuss HIV/AIDS or a specific issue related to HIV/AIDS. Try to involve sympathetic community leaders like politicians, councillors, religious leaders and health workers. For example, ward councillors can call ward meetings and church leaders can organise an interfaith event. Meetings work best if people have a chance to give their views, ask questions and discuss problems and solutions. The leaders should be there to listen and to give some information and direction. Speakers should make only a very short introductory speech that covers the main issues/problems and then ask the participants to give their experiences and their views about what should be done. Leaders can sum up the way forward at the end of a forum.


Do house visits to talk to people about HIV/AIDS. Get many volunteers, train them and then go from door-to-door in an area. You can use this method to get to people who never attend events. Try to take a pamphlet with you so that you can leave something behind even if people do not want to talk. Train volunteers in the best way to get people to talk. For example, when someone opens the door you can say: " Hello, I am Themba. I work for the Youth AIDS Project. We are visiting everyone in this street so that people can ask us questions about AIDS and the things that worry you. We also want to tell you what we are doing to help young people to stay safe. Do you have a few minutes to talk?"


Pamphlets are a good way of spreading information about HIV/AIDS and services offered by organisations. The Department of Health has many simple pamphlets you can use. If you write your own, keep pamphlets short and simple. Translate them into the most common languages used in your area. Make sure you distribute them properly and to the right target groups – otherwise you can waste a lot of money.


Talk to local community and regional radio as well as newspapers about doing stories that will educate people about prevention, non-discrimination and care. Ask for space to run a talk show or advice column on HIV/AIDS. Ask them to interview people living with HIV/AIDS and their families.


1. Do you know anyone?
5 minutes
Questions to audience
Ask the audience to put up their hands if they know anyone they think died of AIDS. Most people will put up their hands. Then ask them whether it was publicly admitted at the funeral, that the person had AIDS. Few will put up their hands. Use this to lead to the next question.  
2. Why is there a silence around HIV/AIDS?
15 minutes

Groups of three

Ask people to discuss this question with two people next to them for five minutes. Then get each group to make one point only until all points are out. Add your own from the manual.  
3. Facts about HIV/AIDS and local services
20 minutes Questions

10 minutes

Use chapter 8 of the manual to do an input on HIV/AIDS. Add any local information on services that you can find. Allow for questions


4. What can we do?

Report back + discussion 20 minutes

Break people into groups of 5-10 and ask them to discuss these two questions:

1. What can we do to protect ourselves against infection?

2. What can we do to help people living with HIV/AIDS and orphans in our community?

After 30 minutes let each group make a brief report. Add in ideas from chapter 1 and some of the things that are being done locally and ask people to join existing projects.

Group discussion 30 minutes

5. Personal pledges Individual task 15 minutes

Ask people to each think of a pledge (promise) they can make about what they will change in their attitudes or behaviour after this workshop. Give them a few minutes, then go around the room, and let each person speak. If you are recruiting volunteers – have forms for people to sign up

Close and thank people  
  1. Condom distribution

    Condoms are the best way to prevent the spread of AIDS, but people need easy access to them. Millions of free condoms are distributed every year and many of those end up being wasted. Condom distribution works best when people are also taught why to use them, how to use them properly, how to store them and how to throw them away safely. Distribute condoms at all your events and workshops.

    There is resistance to condom use in many cultures. It is very important to make sure that you also change attitudes. In Britain and France, the government ran very effective TV and billboard advertisements for condoms in the late 80's and early 90's. They made it look "cool" and fashionable to use condoms and very stupid to not use them. The campaigns were very successful with young people and now most people who are not faithful to one partner, use condoms.

    On the one hand, condom distribution should be very well-targeted. Make sure that vulnerable groups can get them easily and conveniently and distribute directly to them. On the other hand, we must make condoms accessible for anyone in the community – do not only distribute to the most vulnerable. Remember that many people are shy and will not ask for condoms so we have to also use places where people have some privacy. Place pamphlets on how to best use a condom wherever you are distributing condoms.

    Here are some ideas for distributing to vulnerable groups:

    For truck drivers - put free condom dispensing machines in public toilets at all truck stops and garages. Ask petrol attendants to keep condoms and hand them out to people who ask for them.

    For migrant workers – Place condom dispensers in toilets at hostels, free condoms at tuck shops and workplace clinics.

    For sex workers – encourage sex workers to come for check-ups for sexually transmitted infections at clinics and to collect a month’s supplies of condoms. Distribute condoms through one sex worker who is trained to educate others.

    Distributing to the general public does not have to be so targeted – but make sure that people can get condoms easily when they need them. Here are some ideas:

    Make free condoms available at spaza shops, shebeens and 24–hour garages

    Condom dispensers in all public toilets and workplace toilets

    Allow people to collect a few dozen condoms at a time at clinics and workplaces

    Find a way of getting condoms to youth – use clubs or other young people. It is not easy for young people to ask at a spaza shop or clinic in their area - the adults who work there may know their parents.

    Try to monitor distribution and use. Keep a list of how many you have distributed to each place and how soon it was used up. Make sure you have a good system in place to find out when a distribution place has run out, and to send them new supplies.

  2. Promoting openness and awareness

    We have to actively promote openness about HIV/AIDS and create a more supportive environment for people living with HIV/AIDS. Unless we bring the disease into the open, we cannot deal with it effectively. If we cannot break the silence ourselves, we cannot expect the rest of society to do so.

    As organisations we can:

  1. Counselling and testing

    Most people who are HIV positive do not know it. This means that they will unknowingly spread the disease to their partners while they are in the early stages. Once you get ill with full-blown AIDS, it is too late to start practicing safe sex.

The Department of Health is promoting voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) at clinics and hospitals. People who want to be tested are counselled before the test and if they are positive, get further counselling and support afterwards. The counselling is very important since people need good advice and emotional support if they are positive. They also need counselling on how to protect their partners.

The major problem with VCT is that it is mostly pregnant women who come for tests. They do this so that they can get medicine like Nevirapine to prevent infection of their babies. A very small percentage of the men who are positive come for tests. Many people say they would rather not know if they have HIV/AIDS since they see it as a death sentence and as an end to their sex lives. They also fear that their families and friends will reject them.

Unless people who are HIV positive know it and practice safe sex, we will not stop the spreading of the disease. We have to find ways to overcome resistance to testing. People must feel that it is in their interest to be tested. Linking testing with treatment is the most effective - if people know they may stay healthy for longer, they will come for tests. We should stress four main things as good reasons for testing:

We should also stress that it is the right thing to do and that it is our moral responsibility to not spread the disease. This should not be the main reason we use. The four listed above may be more effective since they appeal to people’s self-interest. It is also important to set up counselling and testing in places where it is comfortable and where people can go without others finding out. The facilities should be open at times when working people can get there. There should also be a referral system in place so that when someone tests positive they can be offered other forms of support. (See chapter 6).

We must use all our public education and awareness methods to promote testing. Here are some ideas:

  1. Special youth focus

    The behaviour of young people now will determine the future of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. If we cannot change the behaviour of people who do not have HIV/AIDS, the disease will only increase. There are many different kinds of projects that can be used to reach young people. The most successful ones all over the world, have used the principle of "peer education". This means that young people are trained to be the educators of other young people. They are much better at communicating with other young people and are not treated with the suspicion that young people might have for older people who come and tell them what to do with their lives.

The kinds of projects that have been used to get these messages across differ all over the world. It is not enough to simply have an education project that goes to schools, although this can make a big difference. One of the most important things to do is to make sure that young people feel free to talk about sex and can deal with it honestly and openly in their relationships with each other. They must be able to get support and information and get easy access to prevention measures like condoms, treatment of sexually transmitted infections, testing, and counselling.

In Thailand, where HIV/AIDS is mostly spread through prostitution, young girls who may enter the sex trade, have been targeted for special work. The Education Ministry, together with the private sector have set up bursary and loan schemes and social workers and teachers identify young girls who may be vulnerable to becoming sex workers.

These young girls are people who come from poor families, who drop out of schools, or who already behave in socially unacceptable ways. The teachers and social workers provide counselling to these girls and try and get them onto a bursary or loan scheme to help them stay in schools. In some areas, they get special after-school support or extra training to make sure that they do not miss their education.

The loveLife Project in South Africa has also been very successful in setting up youth centres and facilities in townships where young people can meet, socialise and get involved in activities. The loveLife centres are also places where people can talk openly about sex and get counselling and advice.

In Kenya, the Mathare Youth Sports’ Association was set up to form soccer clubs where young people could come to play, talk about their problems, as well as get some basic sex education. It is now the largest soccer club in Africa and has 410 boys’ teams and 170 girls’ teams. Peer education is the main method that is used within the soccer club and all the members become resources for their communities or in their schools.

The Shosholoza project in Pietermaritzburg trains peer educators from local soccer clubs to work with other soccer players. They promote condom use and responsible sexual behaviour.


HIV/AIDS Prevention |   Care for Children   |    Care for People with HIV    |   HIV/AIDS and Municipalities    |   Community Action  |   How to coordinate work around HIV/AIDS   |

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