Hesperian Health Guides

Working for Change

HIV is everyone’s problem

It is important that everyone in the community know how HIV is spread and how to prevent it. But this information will not help them unless they also realize that HIV infection can happen to anyone — even them. If people think that HIV and AIDS cannot touch them, they will not act to prevent infection.

Fight HIV, not the people who have it.

Placing the blame on any group of people (such as sex workers, homosexuals, or drug users) suggests that only that group is at risk. It is true that some people, like sex workers, may be more likely to get HIV (because their work requires that they have sex with many men). On the other hand, sex workers may be less at risk because they may use condoms with all their customers. In fact everyone — especially young women — is at risk for HIV. And every person in the community needs to take responsibility for fighting it.

Access to ART medicines not only means people will not die from AIDS, but that people with HIV are less likely to spread it. Treatment is also prevention.

How you can help prevent HIV

In the community

More Information
sexual health

Education is one of the main ways a community can work to keep HIV from spreading. Here are some ideas:

  • Train girls and women to work as peer educators. They can talk with others alone or in groups to help girls and women understand their bodies and sexuality, and gain the selfconfidence and skills to demand safer sex.
  • Tell the truth about women’s risk of HIV. Help people see that HIV has roots in poverty and in women’s inability to protect themselves in their sexual relations.
Train men as outreach
workers. They can go to
the places where men
gather and talk to them
about HIV.
a man showing a condom to two men at a table with bottles on it
  • Use theater and media to help women feel it is OK to know about and to prevent HIV. For example, use a play or comic book to show that ‘good’ girls or women can discuss HIV with their partners, or can buy condoms and ask their husbands or boyfriends to use them.

    At the same time, you can show different ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman. Help people question the idea that men should have many sex partners and that women should be passive about sex. Show how these ideas are dangerous to both men’s and women’s health.
  • Help parents, teachers, and other adult role models become more comfortable talking about sex and HIV with young people.
  • Make sure that all people have access to information and sexual health services, including condoms, to keep HIV from spreading in the community.
  • Bring education about HIV to community meeting places — like bars, schools, religious meetings, and military bases.
Here is an example of how women can work together to protect themselves from HIV:
To help fight the spread of HIV, the women of Palestina, a small town in northeastern Brazil, began a ‘sex strike’. After women in the community learned that a man infected with HIV had unsafe sex with at least two women in the town, they decided to stop having sex with their husbands and boyfriends. They demanded that their partners take the test for HIV before they would begin to have sex again and then insisted upon safer sex practices.

The women will now demand safer sex and proof of an HIV test before they have sexual relations with a partner. One woman said, “If he won’t practice safer sex, we won’t go together anymore.

If you are a health worker

Make sure people in your community know where to get tested for HIV, and how to get care and treatment with ART when they need it.

If every health worker can offer the same information and services, it will save people time, money, and energy because they will not have to search for the best treatment.

Health workers can play a very important role in helping to stop the spread of HIV. You can do this if you:

  • give information about how HIV is spread and how it is not spread to every person you see — especially if they already have other STIs.
  • encourage both men and women to use condoms, even if they are already using another form of family planning.
  • use precautions against HIV infection with every person you see. Since most people with HIV appear healthy, it is best to act as if everyone you care for is HIV-infected. Any time you have to cut the skin or touch body fluids, follow the advice on preventing infections. This includes any time you must give an injection, stitch skin or tissue, help with childbirth, or examine a woman’s vagina.
  • make health services private, confidential, and accessible to all members of the community, including young people.
  • invite someone from a regional AIDS organization to meet with health workers in your area. He or she can help you learn about the best ways to treat the infections that people with HIV and AIDS often get. Discuss the other problems that people with HIV and AIDS face. Try to decide how you can help people using the resources you have, and think about where you might find more resources to help meet people’s needs. If health workers can work together and share resources, they will not have to confront this huge problem alone.

This page was updated:02 Sep 2020