A successful HIV response in the Caribbean

Interest in materials on HIV in the Caribbean

Over recent years, the HIV incidence in the Caribbean – the second most affected region in the world - has dropped by 40%, a considerable achievement to which the German-supported social marketing approach has made a significant contribution. At World AIDS Day 2015, this article takes a closer look at this KfW-supported regional programme.

AIDS continues to be one of the most dangerous diseases worldwide, even though the number of new HIV-infections has decreased by more than one third since the turn of the millennium. Still, there are around 37 million people living with HIV worldwide – a fact this year’s World AIDS Day on December 1st raised awareness for, calling for a continued commitment towards responding to HIV despite the previous achievements.

KfW Development Bank supports a number of programmes in different regions of the world that contribute to increasing the availability of condoms and provide information and education on the risks and ways of HIV transmission– for instance in the Caribbean, after Africa the region with the world’s second highest HIV prevalence. According to UNAIDS, about 1% of the Caribbean population is HIV-positive, with sex workers, men who have sex with men as well as an increasing number of adolescents being most affected.

Decrease of new HIV infections in the Caribbean

 Meanwhile, the number of new HIV infections in the Caribbean has decreased by more than 40% in recent years, more than the global average - an achievement that must be attributed to the comprehensive HIV programmes various countries in the region have established. KfW is one of the partners contributing to the HIV response in the Caribbean.

On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), KfW has supported a regional initiative to control HIV for more than a decade. At present, this initiative has reached its final stage and results of its evaluation are available. The programme was based on a so called “social marketing” approach, aiming at social change through awareness creation and the provision of condoms. The Caribbean Community CARICOM was KfW’s cooperating partner in this regional programme.

Millions of condoms made available

Population Services International (PSI), an international non-governmental organization, implemented the CARICOM programme. It comprised different components in order to reach the largest possible parts of the most affected population groups. The programme did not just ensure the distribution and sale of condoms, but organised communication campaigns via a broad range of different communication channels.

Between 2013 and 2015 more than 40 million condoms were distributed and sold in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the two countries with the highest HIV prevalence rates in the region. The programme focused its campaigns on hotels or shops located near important traffic hubs – and monitoring showed that the number of people with easy access to condoms increased significantly during that time.

Unconventional methods

Coasters for bars, calling for safe sex

PSI combined the improved availability of condoms with marketing campaigns of all kinds, using not just television, radio and newspapers, but also involving social media. More than 40 million people are using the internet frequently in the Caribbean and more than 6 million people are on Facebook. As a result, people are easier to reach over the modern communication channels compared to conventional media.

One campaign, for instance, was called “Got it? Get it.” and comprised its own logo, a Facebook site and regular Tweets in order to convey the message of safe and responsible sex in a modern way.

Education at the hairdresser

Multipliers are another important component of the “social marketing” approach. In Haiti, for instance, PSI was cooperating with hairdressers who educated their customers about HIV risks and offered them not just hair products, but also condoms for sale. As a result, about 4.500 customers were educated and about 30.000 condoms were sold by hairdressers. Other campaigns ranged from an education mobile that drove through cities and villages, board games with questions on love and contraception, to expressive murals and the running of information desks. In Haiti alone, more than 150.000 radio spots and more than 14.000 TV spots were aired since 2012.

„In the Caribbean it was shown, that even on a sensible topic like AIDS, a lot can be achieved with modern marketing methods”, says KfW department manager André Ahlert. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), KfW provided around 26 million Euro during the four stages of the programme, a contribution that helped halt and reverse the HIV epidemic across the region.

By KfW, translated by Verena Kohlbrenner

December 2015

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