Who has a role in HIV prevention?
HIV prevention requires active involvement from all members of society to ensure an environment where young people feel safe and supported and able to protect themselves from HIV at home, school and work and in their community.
HIV prevention must focus on young people because young people have an essential role in slowing the epidemic. Many young people listen to their peers and believe their peers. Young people can be trained to spread messages and promote responsible behaviour among their friends and colleagues. This is known as peer education. As a health professional you can help by raising the awareness of young people about STIs including HIV through peer education and education in schools.
Parents and other adults in the community
All adults have a role to play in their personal capacity as parents, members of extended families and adult role models. They may also have a professional role as teachers, sports coaches and religious leaders. Studies have identified that having a positive relationship with parents, teachers and other adults in the community and having spiritual beliefs helps adolescents avoid behaviour that puts them at risk of HIV.
Targeted strategies must be available that focus on individual needs. (E.g. safer sex information and free condoms for young prostitutes; outreach information programmes for young people who have left school).
Public idols who are role models for young people
Musicians, film stars and sports figures provide role models for young people through their personal lives and through their performances. The images and messages they portray should encourage young people to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours. You can use known examples to help you deliver safer sex messages and to discourage risky behaviour.
Government leaders and the media
Politicians, journalists and public servants can affect the social, economic, and political factors that determine the risk environments for HIV infection in which young people live and work. Public images of sexual behaviour and HIV in the media influence young people. You should look out for those that can help you achieve the aims of HIV prevention.
People living with HIV
People living with HIV and those with AIDS have a role in HIV prevention. They have a personal role to ensure they do not transmit HIV to any other person. People living with HIV are frequently subject to discrimination and human rights abuses. A strong movement of people living with HIV and AIDS can develop a network that provides mutual support and a voice at local and national levels and can be a particularly effective method of tackling HIV stigma. If there are such people living in your community you can work with them to teach young people about ways of preventing HIV infection and also offer your support by showing that you are not judgemental in your dealings with such people.