United Nations agencies plan to use hundreds of thousands of post offices around the world as part of a new campaign to raise awareness about HIV prevention at a time when more than 7,400 new infections occur every day.
Posters, campaign hand-outs and other materials will be made available to customers and employees of post offices in the hope that the postal network’s broad reach will ensure the message penetrates all age groups.
The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UNI Global Union announced today that the campaign will be launched initially in 16,000 post offices in seven countries – Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Estonia, Mali and Nigeria.
The campaign – which will also direct users to a multilingual website with detailed information on HIV prevention – will then be expanded over the next three years, potentially reaching 600,000 post offices around the world and an estimated 5.5 million postal employees.
The campaign will culminate with UPU calling on member countries to issue postage stamps about HIV/AIDS in 2011, 30 years after the disease was discovered.
UPU Director General Edouard Dayan said in a press release that the post office network was a natural partner for such an awareness programme given the vast number of post offices.
“The campaign is a strong example of what one industry can do to help achieve the important Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015,” Mr. Dayan said.
Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, said the high rate of new infections each day means HIV prevention efforts must be stepped up.
“The postal network has an extremely wide outreach: it is open to everyone from the young to the old and is an excellent and innovative way to raise awareness about how to prevent HIV,” he said.
In one of the seven pioneer countries, Cameroon, the country’s postal operator has never participated in a health awareness campaign before. About 5 per cent of Cameroonians aged between 15 and 49 have HIV.
“Raising awareness on HIV is crucial,” said Abraham Sizimboue, the acting Director General of Campost. “HIV touches the lives of a very large part of our population so we are very pleased to be running such an important campaign in our post offices here.”