By Enock Musungwini
Enock is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Enock below or take a look at the Student Issue Analysts.

BEHAVIORAL CHANGE is the way individuals or people Think, Speak , Act and See with regards to many health problems including HIV/AIDS. Behavior change is a process and is a strategy of moving beyond awareness thus taking programs from information to action. Understanding the behavioral change theory is key to HIV prevention.

As a public health professional, I have learned that behavioral change is influenced by five BIG factors:

1) Current information level of the individual who should change the behavior.

2) Perceived risk of that individual: whether the individual personalizes the risk. For example, a person may think that although the risk is high for general population level that that may not apply to them.

3) Skills and confidence of the individual to take action with regards to the positive behavior to be adopted.

4) Social support for the individual to change and adopt the positive behavior he /she wants to take. This involves the environment and the support systems to reach and get to the desired goal and behavior. This involves creating an enabling environment for behavior change in terms of policies, practices, beliefs and traditions of the particular group or population as well as families and communities.

5) Access to the resources that support and promote behavioral change. This involves HIV prevention services including testing and counseling (T&C), Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), Preventing Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT), Condoms, Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART) and other support services. Barriers that affect access to the services should be removed.

Behavior change is a process with stages and the stages may happen in order or haphazardly. The stages of behavior change are:

1.     Not thinking about change: An individual is unaware of the need to change and don’t perceive themselves at risk.

2.     Thinking about change now may be because there was awareness and weighing the pros and cons of changing behavior. The individual now perceive him/herself at risk and has personalized risk.

3.     Preparing to change the behavior that will put him/her at risk and developing a plan for the change. The individual find ways of going about it and what to do to achieve the change.

4.     Taking action to adopt the new desired behavior and thus now an individual is following his/her plan of reaching that goal (behavior).

5.     Maintaining that behavior which one has adopted so as to avoid relapsing back to the risk behavior. This involves avoiding events and situations that will trigger the re-surfacing of the risk and undesired behavior.

Behavior change is a cross-cutting HIV prevention strategy that zero down to an individual and is the ideal approach in a generalized HIV epidemic where HIV is no longer confined and concentrated in specific populations and groups. Behavior change challenges everyone: HIV positive and negative, married and unmarried, men and women, young and adults to take part and make effort. Behavior change is not about blaming the past and what happened in the past but it is about what do an individual do and what can the community and families do now to prevent HIV transmission.

Behavior change is multifaceted and multidimensional as well as cross-cutting in all sectoral HIV/AIDS services and programs.

Behavior Change starts with me!! Stop AIDS , Keep the Promise! HIV Prevention now.

Enock Musungwini is a holds a Certificate in Public Health and Health Systems management, Diploma in Nursing and BSc (Hons) Degree in Psychology. He holds other  various certificates related to Leadership, Interaction, Facilitation and Management. He is the Director and Founder of Community Organization for Development and AIDS Prevention (CODAP) an NGO that works with youths and young people on HIV/AIDS, Reproductive health, peer education and other development programs. He has presented various Abstracts and papers at many national, regional and International conferences related to HIV/AIDS, Climate change and Leadership. He has worked for the following NGOs that work with youths and communities on HIV/AIDS: Midlands AIDS Service Organization as a Program officer for Behavioral Change Communication programs, Gweru Women AIDS Prevention Association as Project Coordinator, The CENTRE – Project Officer (Capacity Building and Outreach )