Behavior Change Communication Highlights from the AIDS Impact Conference

barcelonaThe 11th International AIDS Impact Conference – held in Barcelona, Spain, in early October in partnership with SEISIDA (Sociedad Española Interdiscipliaria del SIDA) – brought together professionals and NGO representatives from different areas and disciplines related to HIV infection. What is particularly nice about this conference is that there is a large focus on HIV prevention, testing, and socio-psychological aspects and interventions in addition to biomedical approaches and treatment. This year the theme of the conference was “Unity is Strength,” which appropriately highlighted the need to bring together health professionals, researchers, those living with HIV/AIDS, politicians, NGOs and CBOs, social workers, etc. to continue to combat HIV.

And indeed the conference did bring such a variety of players together. The conference was a great mix of presentations addressing biomedical interventions as well as social and behavioral approaches. Topics ranged from medication adherence to sexual risk behavior as a result of club drugs to the need to conduct more research on children growing up with HIV.

HC3 sponsored a panel at the conference entitled Social and Behavior Change Communication to Prevent HIV: Impact Evidence from Around the World. Speakers included:

  • Ms. Janaki Vidanapathirana from the National STD/AIDS Programme in Sri Lanka, who spoke about a prevention intervention with inmates;
  • Dr. Leickness Simbayi from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in South Africa, who spoke on the results of the 2012 national HIV survey looking at uptake of voluntary medical male circumcision;
  • Dr. Maria Elena Figueroa from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs (JHU·CCP), who spoke about the impact of a communication campaign focused on prevention in Mozambique; and
  • Dr. Michelle Kaufman, also from JHU·ŸCCP and a researcher on HC3, who presented impact data from the BRIDGE II project in Malawi.

Other presentations of interest included one by John de Wit from Australia, who spoke about the need to use theories of behavior change to develop programs and to really take the time to know one’s target audience with such interventions. Also, Dr. Blair Johnson from the University of Connecticut presented a number of meta-analytic studies showing the effectiveness of behavior change interventions. Dr. Sheana Bull from the University of Colorado School of Public Health also presented her work on social media in HIV interventions, pointing out that we know such an approach is both feasible and acceptable; it is now time to move onto large-scale implementation.

Be on the lookout for a special issue of the journal AIDS Care (one of the conference sponsors) that will be entirely devoted to peer-reviewed papers connected to various conference presentations.

If you are interested in learning more about the AIDS Impact Conferences, visit their website at

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