Kenya: Anti-AIDS Campaigners Now Turn to Positive Advertising
September 30, 2009
Informed by social marketing research, anti-AIDS campaigners in Kenya are turning away from fear-based ads in favor of more positive approaches.
One well-known ad, once featured prominently in medical settings, used monsters to represent the AIDS virus. Another presented images of a man and woman, tracking them from the time of HIV infection as they wasted away and eventually died.
"The skeleton images, apart from scaring the public, did little to create awareness of AIDS," said Dr. Christine Ombaka of the community group Ulumbi Youth AIDS. "The messages did not offer hope; death was shown as the immediate consequence of infection." Further, she said, "The fear tactics employed ended up stigmatizing those already infected. They withdrew and were not encouraged to seek support or care from health institutions."
Instead, newer ads accept the reality of sexual relationships and ask partners to protect each other. One displays condoms prominently while showing a young couple in a romantic setting.
"Fear appeal will get people's attention for a while, but often the threat soon diminishes and they revert back to risky behavior," said David Onuong'a, who teaches psychology of communication at Maseno University.
Social psychologists cite the theory of cognitive dissonance to explain how people react to fear-based messages. Confronted by a frightening message, experts say, a person engaged in high-risk sex may seek to resolve the conflict by downplaying the message's importance; adding interpretations consonant with his/her behavior; or modifying the risky behavior. While the third outcome is the one desired by campaign designers, experts say the audience is more likely to discredit the message and engage in "biased optimism."
Business Daily Africa (Nairobi)
09.23.2009; Victor Juma
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.