Popular Opinion Leader (POL)

Popular Opinion Leader (POL) is an HIV prevention intervention that involves identifying, enlisting, and training key opinion leaders to encourage safer sexual norms and behaviors within their social networks through risk reduction conversations.

About Popular Opinion Leader (POL)

Popular Opinion Leader (POL) is a community-level HIV prevention intervention based on diffusion of innovation/social influence principles in which a cadre of trusted, well-liked key opinion leaders are trained to endorse safer sexual behaviors in casual, one-on-one conversations with peers.

Intervention Goal

  • To increase condom use with main and other sex partners.

Intervention Core Elements

  • Intervention is directed to an identifiable target population in well-defined community venues and where the population’s size can be estimated.
  • Ethnographic techniques are systematically used to identify segments of the target population and to identify those persons who are most popular, well-liked, and trusted by others in each population segment.
  • Over the life of the program, 15% of the target population found in intervention venues is trained as POLs.
  • The program teaches POLs skills for initiating HIV risk-reduction messages to friends and acquaintances during everyday conversations.
  • The training program teaches POLs characteristics of effective behavior change communication messages targeting risk reduction attitudes, norms, intentions, and self-efficacy.
  • Groups of POLs meet weekly in sessions that use instruction, facilitator modeling, and extensive role play exercises to help POLs refine their skills and gain confidence in delivering effective HIV prevention messages to others.
  • Groups are small enough to provide extensive practice opportunities for all POLs to shape their communication skills and create comfort in delivering conversational messages.
  • POLs set goals to engage in risk-reduction conversations with friends and acquaintances in the targeted population between weekly sessions.
  • POLs conversational outcomes are reviewed, discussed, and reinforced at subsequent training sessions.
  • Logos, symbols, or other devices are used as “conversation starters” between the POLs and others.

Intervention Population

  • Populations at risk in a variety of venues, including gay men in bars, black women in low-income housing settings, and male commercial sex workers.

Popular Opinion Leader Training

There is no CDC-supported training currently available for POL. Technical assistance for the implementation of POL is available.

To request technical assistance:

  1. CDC’s directly funded health department and CBO partners may request technical assistance by submitting a request in the CBA Tracking System.
  2. Organizations not directly funded by CDC may contact their local health department for assistance in submitting a request.

If you have questions or need additional assistance, please contact HIVCBA@cdc.gov.

  • Kelly JA, St. Lawrence JS, Diaz YE, Stevenson LY, Hauth AC, Brasfield TL, Kalichman SC, Smith JE, Andrew ME. HIV risk behavior reduction following intervention with key opinion leaders of population: An experimental analysis. Am J Public Health 1991;81(2):168-171.
  • Kelly JA. Popular opinion leaders and HIV prevention peer education: Resolving discrepant findings, and implications for the development of effective community programs. AIDS Care 2004;16(2), 139-150.