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Perspectives in Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Understanding AIDS: An Information Brochure Being Mailed To All U.S. Households

Approximately 107 million English-language versions of a brochure, Understanding AIDS, will be distributed to every home and residential post office box by the U.S. Postal Service between May 26 and June 30, 1988. A Spanish-language version will be distributed in Puerto Rico and will also be available upon request after May 26, 1988. This national mailing marks the first time the federal government has attempted to contact virtually every resident, directly by mail, regarding a major public health problem. The brochure is reproduced in its entirety beginning on page 262.

The brochure was prepared by CDC in consultation with the Surgeon General and a wide spectrum of public health officials, medical experts, advertising consultants, and members of the general public. Every effort was made to make the presentation simple, direct, and understandable to the widest possible audience. The purpose of the mailer is to provide understandable information and to encourage safe behaviors that can prevent HIV infection. The mailing has three objectives:

To make it clear how AIDS is and is not transmitted. People can protect themselves without having unnecessary fears. To make it clear that behaviors, not identification with "risk groups," put people at risk. As the brochure states, "who you are has nothing to do with whether you are in danger of being infected with the AIDS virus. What matters is what you do." To stimulate informed discussions about AIDS within families, between sexual partners, and at all levels of society by presenting the facts and showing people how AIDS relates to their own lives. CDC has established a major effort to ensure that as many people as possible read and discuss this mailing. Major steps, including contacts with state health departments and manufacturers of AIDS testing kits, have been taken to handle the increased requests for information and testing that this brochure may generate. CDC will add up to 1,000 operators to the National AIDS Information Line (hotline) (1-800-342-AIDS) to handle the 1.5 million new calls anticipated during the mailing period. At present, the hotline is handling 120,000 calls per month as a result of the "America Responds to AIDS" public information campaign.

Hotline callers wishing to talk with a counselor or requesting information about local counseling and testing will be referred to local hotline numbers or, if none exist, will be served by operators who staff the National AIDS Information Line. More than 300 Spanish-speaking operators will be available to answer a toll-free hotline (1-800-344-SIDA) to take orders for Spanish-language copies of the brochure.

To measure the impact of this brochure, CDC will use data gathered through the AIDS Knowledge and Attitudes supplement of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). This survey is conducted through interviews with a probability sample of American households by the Bureau of the Census for the National Center for Health Statistics. CDC will also monitor other indicators that may reflect public response to the brochure, such as calls to the national hotline and the National AIDS Clearinghouse, requests for information to health-care providers, and media presentations of AIDS information.

In spite of all these efforts, there are things the brochure will not do. It will not reach people who cannot read or who read only languages other than English or Spanish. It may not reach the homeless or drug abusers, who need intensive outreach efforts. CDC is working with state and local health departments and community organizations to target ongoing educational efforts for the hard-to-reach. One million advance copies of the brochure are being sent to doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, hospitals, and public health officials so that they can be prepared to answer questions from their patients and clients. NOTE: The pamphlet, "Understanding AIDS," is not available electronically. Copies were mailed to all state health departments for receipt by Wednesday, May 4.

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