“Yeah, but it’s true that condoms can’t protect against HIV, right? I just heard from my friend that some new research just came out that said that HIV is so small it can pass right through condoms.”

As the new woman behind the chair at my barber shop made this comment and went about her handiwork, I realized just how wrong “campaign” was in the context of HIV prevention.

It’s common to read about an organization conducting an HIV prevention campaign for a certain population or during a certain period of time, which in and of itself is splendid. The more people being educated about HIV the better…period; however I often wonder if HIV prevention is viewed in the same context as an immunization campaign, one shot and you’re done. You receive the information once, you’re good to go. This sentiment is often expressed by schools when they say that they provide HIV prevention and proceed to describe a series of health classes that students get once during middle school. Unfortunately, HIV prevention doesn’t work like that.

New HIV information, for that matter health information in general, isn’t in the major headlines or on the radar like the latest episode of Dancing with the Stars. It’s buried in scholarly journals that gradually trickle down to the general populace. Perhaps, as a result of this distance between the information source and the recipients, many misconceptions of HIV/AIDS continuously circulate as “new” facts or information. And it doesn’t just happen in my barber shop, I have seen it happen in small-town Wisconsin and in Bangkok, in Washington, D.C. and rural Kenya. I’ve read about it all throughout the world.

When there isn’t a regular, convenient, comfortable and reliable source of HIV information available, people look to their friends, those they trust the most and feel comfortable discussing sexually-related issues with. What their friends say becomes the latest information.

This calls for HIV prevention that is not a one and you’re done, but a continuous process that revisits information and builds upon it with the most recent findings in the field. It calls for a long-term view of HIV prevention.

So…easy to say, how do we get it done? A couple of sparks…

Novice: start with your captive audiences. Educate kids in school at least once a year, starting in late elementary/early middle school and continuing through high school. It’s time for parents and administrators to acknowledge that kids are engaging in sexual activities at younger ages and need education about it.

Amatuer: Urge organizations, companies, etc. to have annual “campaigns”, so it’s not one and done. Or coordinate information so that it is regularly available, but in engaging formats so you don’t get the, “oh it’s the drug commercial again” tune-out.

All-star: Find a point from which to get the community engaged so there are individuals in the community who are championing these issues and are known as safe points of information related to these issues and constant and accurate peer-to-peer education is occurring.

This being my maiden voyage into the sea that is the AIDBlog, please let me preface all future posts by saying that I’m gunnning for as much reader participation as possible. Drop me a comment with opposition, support, an idea for the greater communtiy, a partnership proposal, just to bounce ideas back and forth, a question. It helps me, it helps you. That’s how we’re going to shake things up.

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