Community-level interventions are a promising approach for preventing the spread of HIV infection (Kelly, 1999). Community-level interventions typically combine the use of mass media messages (e.g., through TV or radio PSAs) and/or "small media" materials (e.g., flyers, newsletters) with outreach by program staff or peer volunteers. These individuals engage community members in discussion about HIV and call attention to or reinforce the prevention messages in the media (McAlister, 1991).
Community-level interventions complement individual counseling and small group interventions because they seek to change the attitudes, norms, and behaviors of entire communities. These approaches recognize that local values, norms, and behavior patterns have a significant effect on shaping an individual's attitudes and behaviors (Thompson and Kinne, 1990).
To the extent that community-level interventions can change community norms, they should provide an opportunity for the diffusion and ongoing support of reduced risk behaviors. As safer sex norms diffuse through a community they shape the behavior of individuals, including those who have not been reached directly by the intervention. These shifts in norms bring about the large-scale changes that are necessary to sustain behavior change at the community level.
Kelly, J. A. (1999). Community-level interventions are needed to prevent new HIV infections. American Journal of Public Health, 89, 299-301.
McAlister, A. (1991). Population behavior change: A theory-based approach. Journal of Public Health Policy, 12, 345-361.
Thompson, B., & Kinne, S. (1990). Social change theory: Applications to community health. In N. Bracht (Ed.), Health Promotion at the Community Level (pp.45-65). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.