The massive HIV/Aids campaigns that South African society is constantly bombarded with has no effect on reducing the pandemic's prevalence rate.
This is according to Warren Parker, a researcher and director of the Johannesburg-based Centre for Aids, who was addressing the Gauteng Aids conference in Midrand on Friday morning.
Only impact is on condom usage
He said the only impact the campaign had was on condom usage.
"The use of condoms has risen sharply over the years and research shows that HIV/Aids campaigns have contributed to the increase (in the) use of condoms," Parker said.
"In 1998, only 21,2 percent of females reported using condoms while in 2003, the figure rose to 65 percent."
Parker said there were hundreds of campaigns in South Africa in the form of TV programmes, advertisements, government programmes, NGOs and faith-based programmes and workshops.
Campaigns had not really worked in reducing the HIV/Aids prevalence, because they mostly focused on risk groups, such as people who already have HIV/Aids, and on people living in informal settlements.
'We don't really see it affecting prevalence'
"Campaigns are mostly there to provide information, we don't really see it affecting prevalence."
Campaigns need to focus directly on age difference between partners, multiple partners, and violence, in order for a difference to be felt.
Liz Floyd, from the Gauteng Aids programme, said Gauteng focused on five main areas to reduce the prevalence rate.
These included communication, education, health services, and social factors.
She said the social factors driving HIV were unemployment, migrancy, poverty, sex for survival, gender and power, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and sexual abuse.
She said these factors must be taken into account when drawing up campaigns and educational programmes for schools.
"One major concern at the moment is that the young people are using alcohol and drugs together. This contributes to unsafe sexual behaviour," Floyd said.
'Communication is important'
"Communication is important here. There are a lot of advertisements, but a powerful impact is only felt when someone with HIV speaks to people."
She said mixed messages came from celebrities. "This is confusing. Mixed messages come from them. They say one thing, but their actions show something else," Floyd said.
Condoms not always used correctly
Parker added that while campaigns had contributed to the increased use of condoms, many people who used them reported an inconsistency in use while other reported incorrect use.
"Research shows that people know that they should use condoms, but many of them did not know how to use a condom. There is also a lack of use in high risk groups, such as among truck drivers," Parker said.
He concluded by saying that campaigns should extend their focus areas, and that there was a need to ensure accountability, in order for these campaigns to have the desired effect. – (Sapa)
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