Today, at the 19th International AIDS Conference, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (JHU∙CCP) presented their findings from two qualitative research studies in Mozambique indicating that a traditional understanding of sexuality, faithfulness and sickness can hinder the acceptance and practice of mainstream HIV prevention messages.
The findings indicate that cultural beliefs and practices may interfere with people’s understanding and acceptance of HIV prevention messages, particularly about condom use, HIV testing and remaining faithful to one partner. Specifically, in some parts of Mozambique, condoms are unlikely to be used with a “serious” sexual partner because they represent a lack of love and commitment, people may not seek HIV testing until they are feeling ill because it is the presence of symptoms that motivates them to seek an HIV test and male unfaithfulness is deemed natural and even admired.
These findings underscore the importance of ensuring that health communication campaigns are synchronized with the target audience’s existing outlook on HIV-related behaviors for these campaigns to be deemed meaningful and become effective. Understanding and integrating the target audience’s mentality regarding HIV-related behaviors is essential to creating messages that truly speak to the current social context and will be the most likely to bring about meaningful change.
The CCP studies that provided these findings were conducted as part of Tchova Tchova, Juntos Vamos Mudar (“Moving Forward Together We Will Change”), a three- year HIV community-based communication intervention project, and Active Prevention and Communication for all (PACTO), a four-year project examining barriers to HIV preventative behaviors.