The Role of Public Information in HIV/AIDS Prevention
Public information activities alone do not represent a sufficient HIV
prevention strategy. However, planning and implementing effective and
efficient public information programs are essential to successful HIV/AIDS
As defined here, the purposes of public information programs are to:
- Build general support for safe behavior.
- Support personal risk reduction.
- Inform persons at risk about infection and how to obtain specific services.
- Encourage volunteerism.
- Decrease prejudice against persons with HIV disease.
Public information programs craft and deliver data-driven and
consumer-based messages and strategies to target audiences.
The public information program standards and guidelines set forth here are
based on CDC's standards for health communication.
CDC defines health communication as a "multidisciplinary, theory-based
practice designed to influence the knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and
behaviors of individuals and communities" (Roper, 1993). Sound health
communication practice is based on a combination of behavioral and
communication sciences, health education, and social marketing. Current
practice extends beyond information dissemination to include a variety of
proactive strategies addressing both individual and societal change.
A communication (public information) program is the delivery of planned
messages through one or more channels to target audiences through the use
Successful public information programs share a number of basic
characteristics, which include:
- A person in charge who manages the program well.
- Activities planned to fit what the community and target audience need and want.
- A variety of activities, including mass media, that can be directed over a period of time to the target audience.
- A measurable program objective or purpose.
- A commitment to evaluation – tracking and measuring progress toward objectives.
- A time schedule.
- Efficient use of people and other resources.
Well-planned and well-executed health communication in public information
programs can accomplish the following:
- Raise awareness.
- Increase knowledge.
- Refute myths and misconceptions.
- Influence attitudes and social norms.
- Reinforce knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.
- Suggest and enable action.
- Show the benefits of a behavior.
- Increase support and/or demand for services.
- Help coalesce organizational relationships.
Public information programs should use multiple approaches to motivate and
involve people and communities. Using health communication methodologies,
however, is not sufficient to guarantee change. Plans for creating
sustained behavior change should include information/communications in
combination with other prevention strategies. In this way, effective
communications can significantly enable and contribute to change. For
example, public information programs funded by CDC carry out parts of CDC's
overall HIV prevention strategy. Consumer-influenced messages and
strategies are best achieved by a systematic approach involving research,
planning, implementation, evaluation, and feedback. The purpose of this
section is to offer guidelines for conducting public information programs
that have been developed as integral parts of an overall HIV-prevention
In addition to planning, pretesting, and evaluating public information
strategies, specific components of public information programs – producing
educational materials, working with the print and broadcast media,
hotlines, and special events – are addressed here.
Go to Planning for Public Information