The critical nature of health communication across the continuum of care was outlined in a recent article which noted that communication expands both knowledge of and access to quality services, and also expands the support needed to practice healthy behaviors and adhere to treatment. We know that accessing HIV treatment is only part of the HIV treatment and care continuum.
As individuals move through a set of stages ranging from HIV diagnosis to viral suppression, they may fall out of the HIV care continuum at any point in time. As those are lost in the cascade, the number of people living with HIV who remain healthy declines.
Because communication is an integral part of interventions that seek to address individual, community, and social factors, it can have significant impact at multiple levels of implementation in each step of the continuum of care. Communication can be used to create health-seeking behavior, on the demand side, and as a means to increase in-service counseling quality, on the supply side. In the context of HIV, communication can motivate people to get tested, obtain their results, promote access to treatment, link people living with HIV to care, support retention in care, and help reduce stigma.*
Communication can strengthen social networks and reflect social norms that support healthy behavior. It also helps providers explain services and treatments to clients and motivate them to use those services consistently and effectively. Individual and group counseling has played a particularly important role in these efforts throughout the continuum of care, from post-test counseling in HIV testing and counseling services to adherence counseling in facilities as well as outside the clinic walls through lay health workers in the community.
According to a recent UNAIDS report, one of the three fundamental pillars for scaling up HIV treatment focuses on creating demand for it. The report recognizes that community-led campaigns and other initiatives are “vital to expanding and sustaining access to life-saving treatment services” and that “intensifying educational and marketing efforts to increase awareness of the benefits of early therapy to individuals and secondarily to society at large” are needed.**
The Health COMpass is pleased to provide a selection of tools and project examples that address the communication needs across the HIV and AIDS continuum of care. As always, you are invited to add your own materials to the Health COMpass by registering on our site. Complete instructions about uploading new materials are found here.
[*From: What Is Health Communication and How Does It Affect the HIV/AIDS Continuum of Care? A Brief Primer and Case Study From New York City, by Douglas Storey, BSc, MA, PhD, Kim Seifert-Ahanda, BS, MPH, Adriana Andaluz, MPH, Benjamin Tsoi, MD, MPH, Jennifer Medina Matsuki, MPH, and Blayne Cutler, MD, PhD- J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Volume 66, Supplement 3, August 15, 2014 Communication and the HIV/AIDS Continuum 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins www.jaids.com]
Banner photo: A health care worker in Chiang Mai, Thailand, shows a patient living with AIDS the watch that will remind her to take her ARV medicine.© 2004 Melissa May, Courtesy of Photoshare