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Social movements: Key issues to emerge

1. Access to communication as a human right

The issue of access not only to treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS but also to communication as a human right was discussed. Beliefs in the indivisibility of people having a right to access communication, just as they have to health, education, social and economic rights, were stressed.

2. Communication strategies

It was recognised that communication strategies within government health policy-making rarely exist. NGOs and social movements often do not think of targeting this strategy gap when addressing concerns around HIV and AIDS. Although some NGOs have started to employ communications experts, they often deal with media and information campaigns rather than communication as a long-term strategic issue.

3. Knowledge not information

There was agreement that information alone often does not give people the tools to change behaviour effectively: 95 per cent of the Brazilian population is meant to be educated about AIDS with the main message having been’use condoms’ . However, the example of a 60-year-old Brazilian man who re-used the same condom demonstrates the shortcomings of information provision without considering the need for related knowledge that can lead to more effective behaviour change.

Through sustained interpersonal support to members, social movements can support deep shifts in knowledge to supplement more superficial information dissemination and health messages. The need to look at communication in its widest sense rather than limiting it to the media was raised, as was the potential of communication in helping to integrate groups of people and raise voice.

4. Communication indicators needed

Participants discussed the indicators used to measure and showcase the effectiveness of wider communication and the important role knowledge plays in addressing HIV issues, changing behaviours and saving lives. It was recognised that it may be easier to measure access to and dissemination of information than knowledge.

There was also discussion about who defines indicators for the monitoring process, and how research is implemented. Advances in tools used to evaluate networks of people may help track relationship-building and inclusion of different groups in HIV and AIDS responses. This would allow interested stakeholders to look at communication that goes beyond media engagement.

5. Political settings of social movements

It was pointed out that social movements are subject to the politics of the country or region they operate within and often, although not always, carry political change motives themselves. Goals of social movements can vary from, for example, trying to gain basic rights to speak out and not lose employment to highly sophisticated amendments to national government policy.

6. Supporting social movements

Suggestions included financial support, supporting the communication and sharing of lessons learned between social movements, and helping to develop and promote networks of social movements advocating for similar goals.

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Key facts

This blog is part of the Spark discussion Social movements.
This discussion includes:
-Intro: Social movements
-Barriers for HIV-positive women
-Experiences from Brazil
-Key issues to emerge

Read more about the Spark project and other discussions


Background paper | Moved to act (225kb)