International post office network to share HIV prevention messages

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Feature story

International post office network to share HIV prevention messages

07 July 2009

A version of this story was written by Faryal Mirza, Universal Postal Union (UPU)

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(Left to right) Mr Philip J. Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, Mr Edouard Dayan, Director General of the Universal Postal Union, Mr Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS and Mr Assane Diop, Executive Director of the Social Protection Sector at ILO during a press conference to launch the Global prevention awareness campaign at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on 7 July 2009.
Credit: UNAIDS/O. O'Hanlon

Halting the spread of HIV by 2015 is one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To contribute towards this goal, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and UNAIDS together with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNI Global have launched a global awareness campaign. Post offices in participating countries will display HIV prevention information which will reach the general public and postal employees.

This awareness-raising campaign is part of the UPU’s ongoing effort to promote sustainable development and social responsibility among postal operators.

Edouard Dayan, UPU Director General

“This awareness-raising campaign is part of the UPU’s ongoing effort to promote sustainable development and social responsibility among postal operators,” says UPU Director General Edouard Dayan.

Global reach

In many parts of the world, post offices already have a social role by promoting public health messages within their community. At the heart of the campaign is the Posts’ unrivalled physical network of 660,000 post offices. Alison Phillips-Pearce, the UNAIDS campaign coordinator, is excited by the “enormous outreach” of the joint initiative. Also, the network has a special characteristic. “The Post is a place that is open to everyone from the young to the old and does not discriminate,” Phillips-Pearce adds.

Claude Montellier, head of the sustainable development programme at the UPU, believes there is the potential for Post Offices to do much outreach given that they already provide universal access to information. He added that this led the UPU to consider ways the postal network could benefit the public at large.

“Promoting social responsibility takes place through the development of awareness programmes about diseases for postal staff and the public,” he said.

UNAIDS created the bold advocacy materials for this campaign, including posters, postcards and country fact sheets.

Consultative process

For UNAIDS’ part, Phillips-Pearce shed light on why the campaign materials had taken their chosen form. “The materials were the outcome of a consultative process with our partners.” The materials were tested on a global audience and across genders to find out if the message was clear. The end result was the slogan: “Your post office cares. Protect yourself.”

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“An adaptable slogan was needed to ensure that the message was meaningful to the country it is displayed in,” Phillips-Pearce said. In Brazil, for example, a more direct message was required, so the slogan on campaign materials there will read: “Your post office cares. Protect yourself. Wear a condom.”

First phase: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Estonia, Mali and Nigeria

As a first phase the campaign will reach out to postal customers of seven countries— Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Estonia, Mali and Nigeria. These were chosen because of their HIV prevalence rates and to give a broad geographical spread. Estonia, for example, has Europe’s highest rate of HIV infection. During this initial phase, nearly 24,000 post offices will display and distribute the information materials and more UPU member countries will join later this year.

The campaign’s second phase in 2010 will focus on postal employees with help from the ILO and UNI Global Union. The ILO will prepare a toolkit for postal employers to use to inform their staff about HIV and UNI Global hopes to have the support of both the Posts and the workers’ unions for this phase.

Thirdly, in 2011, the UPU plans to invite its member countries to issue a stamp to commemorate the discovery of AIDS in 1981 when the first scientific article related to this disease was published.

“AIDS touch the lives of a very large part of our population”

Meanwhile, with the launch of the campaign the Cameroon Post is hoping that its 220 outlets will make an impact in the country where around five per cent of adults between 15 and 49 are living with HIV.

It is the first time that Mireille Ndancha Njilla, a postal operator, has participated in a health campaign, however she believes that there is a need to raise awareness of the virus in her community, as “HIV and AIDS touch the lives of a very large part of our population.”