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 April 24, 2000

Researcher Identifies Elements of
Successful AIDS Prevention Campaigns

Although AIDS continues to ravish Africa at a time when many western countries have the disease under control, among the heart-wrenching statistics is a glimmer of hope: Uganda's rate of infection has fallen from 15 percent to 9.7 percent.

That decrease is partly due to the AIDS communications campaigns seen and heard throughout that country, says James Kiwanuka-Tondo, a visiting assistant professor of communication sciences. By studying what made these campaigns successful, he says, other countries can create their own campaigns and lower their rates of infection.

Statistics from the end of last year show that of the 33.6 million people worldwide infected with HIV or AIDS, nearly 70 percent lived in Sub-Saharan Africa. During 1999 there were an estimated 5.6 million new HIV infections around the world, including 3.8 million in that region.

In a forthcoming paper, Kiwanuka-Tondo analyzes AIDS prevention communication campaigns in Uganda. To be successful, he finds, an organization needs plentiful financial resources, well trained staff, a clear and focused purpose, and participation of the audience in the planning and design of the campaign.

During his research, Kiwanuka-Tondo contacted all the organizations listed by the Uganda AIDS Commission as conducting AIDS campaigns in the country. Of those 135 organizations, 91 responded to the survey about their most recent, successful and completed AIDS prevention campaign.

The survey queried respondents about various aspects of the campaign, such as the target audience's exposure to the message, the type and number of media outlets used for the campaign, the organization's goal for the campaign, and the extent to which the campaign indicates what the audience should do to prevent the spread of AIDS. Other questions determined the amount of money spent on the campaign, research conducted about the campaign and the staff's training in designing AIDS campaigns.

Survey results showed that the more financial resources the organization had, the more media channels it used. In addition, a well trained staff was a significant predictor of narrow targeting and conducting research. Kiwanuka-Tondo says finances, training and purpose were the three hallmarks of all successful campaigns.

"Before any organization sets out to conduct a health communication campaign, it needs financial resources, training of its staff in conducting campaigns, as well as ensuring that they have a clear and focused purpose," he says.

Organizations should also be more willing to accept ideas about designing the messages from the audience, he concludes.

Kiwanuka-Tondo's findings have implications for those concerned about the spread of AIDS in Uganda, the United States and beyond.

"By establishing the relationship between organizational and communication campaign variables, this study has broken theoretical ground," he says. "For practical purposes, they give us a sense of which organizational factors are crucial for running a quality health communication campaign."

Allison Thompson