A few days ago I got an email from a friend. It contained an attachment. It was a poster that was part of an awareness campaign regarding HIV and AIDS. What pleasantly surprised me was that the campaign was from the Ministry of Health. However the poster evoked a lot of different feelings including amusement, surprise, happiness, and disappointment.

The mixed feelings come from different places and different reactions to the poster. First let me say I applaud the Ministry for taking this step. It is a good move towards opening the dialogue about STDs in general and HIV in particular. It has always been a taboo of a topic here. We are like ostriches with our heads in the sand, in denial about the magnitude of the problem that exists in Jordan; about the unsafe sexual practices, about sexual abuse, about STDs and about actual figures. So this is a good step, no, a great step forward

I am dismayed and disappointed in the campaign its self. Visually it leaves a lot to be desired, the poster reads like a brochure, detracting from the message. It would have been more effective to use less text for more impact redirecting people who are interested to brochures, website or the phone line they have.

The actual messages sent are both positive and yet frustrating. I have heard a lot of reactions to this campaign and the reoccurring theme is wow this is great, they will learn, and hmmm they have some misconceptions. My worry is that with misinformation we can do more harm than good. Also there is no advocacy for safe sex practices. In fact they have listed sex as dangerous as a whole, which will not deter people from having sex.

Ministry HIV Campaign

For those that don’t read Arabic the campaign is a series of questions, some highlights from the texts…

  • Do you have any sexual practices?
  • Do you have any “dangerous” sexual practices (girl and girl, guy and guy, guy and girl)?
  • Do you know that VERY beautiful girl may have AIDS?
  • Do you know that STRONG, BEAUTIFUL young man may have AIDS?
  • AIDS tests are private and confidential
  • AIDS testing is free in Jordan
  • There is no “quarantine” or reservations against AIDS patients in Jordan

I have heard that this campaign is using the internet and SMS to spread the word, a great way to target the younger generation. I hope there is a plan for wider reach and more mass media tools and techniques. We need to break through the silence and really have people become more aware of the dangers and how to prevent them.