CAMPAIGNS: Judge and Jury; World Aids Day must try harder to educate the less fortunate

World Aids Day attempted to present a unified approach to the disease but different societies need to be fed different messages, says Gareth Zundel, a director of Harvard Public Relations

World Aids Day attempted to present a unified approach to the disease

but different societies need to be fed different messages, says Gareth

Zundel, a director of Harvard Public Relations



This year World Aids Day asked us to believe in ‘one world, one hope’.

While there is merit in a single message and single identity for such a

day there is not and, for the forseeable future must not, be a common

approach to Aids campaigns throughout the world. The effectiveness of

public education campaigns to date has varied dramatically across

different social and national groups. Compare the falling rate of Aids

infection among drug injectors in Scotland with the exponential rise in

infection among drug users in parts of the former Eastern bloc. In one

town in the Ukraine the percentage of HIV-infected people among

injecting drug users rose from 1.7 per cent in Januray 1995 to 56.5 per

cent 11 months later.



This is not to say that public education campaigns have been absent in

countries where infection rates are rising. Rather, the effectiveness

of such campaigns is severly diminished where social and economic

conditions lead to cyclical disadvantage. Where there is a general lack

of hope for improved quality of life, the messages fall on deaf ears.



In most developed countries the awareness element of World Aids Days

has had a powerful two-pronged effect. The breadth of adoption of the

red ribbon icon has in itself conveyed the message that Aids recognises

no social or sexual boundaries. Secondly, the wearing of the ribbon has

become something of an act of remembrance. As with Armistice Day, the

process of reflection serves to reinforce previously learnt lessons.



But where the educational lessons have for whatever reason not worked,

the awareness aspects of World Aids Day will not elicit more responsible

behaviour. The challenge for future World Aids Days remains successful

education or re-education among those communities or groups where

infection rates are highest.



World Aids Day should keep its red ribbons and continue its educational

events. The ribbons must not merely represent proud proclamation of the

wearer’s care and tolerance but trigger sober remembrance. And despite

World Aids Day’s stated aim to end fear and hysteria surrounding Aids,

some powerful educational messages simply must break the cycle of non

compliance which is leading to the explosive spread of HIV infection in

some regions.



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