Radio: A powerful tool in the prevention of the spread of HIV/AIDS

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by Favour C Ogbonna 

Broadcast media has a critical role to play in HIV/AIDS prevention especially in the context of rural communities that lack access to modern means of information. Radio messages have the capacity and potential to change personal attitudes and behaviors which can protect one from HIV/AIDS infection. One benefit that accrues from the use of radio in disseminating health messages is that it builds critical knowledge and education. For some community residents (youths) to be precise that have called on our ‘Youth Arise’ program when topics related to HIV/AIDS were discussed. The program was found to have a strong impact on safer sex negotiation, leading to condom use for each sexual encounter. The results from the program shows a positive association between radio messages and insistence on condom use. Radio broadcasting in rural communities was reported as encouraging safe sexual practices and the adoption of other HIV/AIDS protective lifestyles such as abstinence from any sexual activity. From the program, it was also observed that sharing knowledge and information on HIV/AIDS and other health related issues result in change in personal behavior and attitude.

Empowerment, radio dialogue and HIV/AIDS literacy

On one occasion of radio discussion on health topics, a caller reasoned that Radio broadcasting allows listeners to open up on several issues as we interact with each other, usually on the things considered to be controversial and personal. These dialogues were both stimulating and empowering.

It is quite clear that empowerment is an end product of radio broadcasting and comes through in several ways, notably, sharing and information exchange on HIV/AIDS.

Information on about HIV/AIDS in rural communities is quite scanty, especially with low electricity supply, bad roads, few infrastructures etc. What radio stations have done is to make sure that in all its broadcast messages, it mentions something about the community clinic and if there are any voluntary testing and counselling programmes around their neighborhood. This will increase the knowledge of where to go when the residents need information or health services in their rural communities

Barriers to the impact of Radio broadcasting on HIV/AIDS Care in Rural Communities

Although there is demonstrated progress in advanced telecommunications capabilities, rural and tribal areas still continue to lag behind in broadband deployment, severely impacting access to critical health information. The interaction between community stigma, consequences of isolation, lack of financial resources, and other barriers demonstrate that these factors must all be addressed together, in order to reduce their collective impact and improve HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in rural areas.

Given all the benefits associated with radio broadcasting, a significant lesson that can be learnt is that there is need for integrating radio broadcasting into other existing mechanisms or strategies for health promotion and HIV/AIDS prevention.

In conclusion, there is a severe need to mainstream radio broadcasting in HIV/AIDS prevention especially in areas where HIV/AIDS knowledge and information is fragmented. There is also a need to scale up HIV/AIDS prevention interventions in rural communities in Nigeria, and all such interventions should have the capacity to build the locales understanding of the pandemic.


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