Selling safe behaviour

Wednesday 10 April 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji

A Solomon Islands community theatre group encouraging young people to go for an STI test

At church, at the dinner table, at work or at school, we are surrounded by HIV prevention messages, and many of us have heard the common refrain: Abstain, Be Faithful, Use a Condom, otherwise known as ‘ABC’.

But what works? Which behaviours are key to protecting yourself from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and how do we best communicate this to our communities?


SPC Strategic Health Communication Team Leader Nicol Cave will be working with the Tuvalu Ministry of Health, civil society and faith-based groups next week to determine the most appropriate mix for Tuvalu’s young people.


The strategic health communication training workshop will be preceded by focus group research with 12–16 year old girls to understand knowledge, attitudes, perceptions, and barriers to abstinence-until-marriage, as a way to prevent STIs including HIV.


‘To be effective, we need to take into account the cultural, social, political and economic contexts that shape people’s sexual behaviour, and perception of risk,’ says Ms Cave.


‘HIV and STI prevention campaigns targeting school girls, for example, will not be appropriate for sex workers, seafarers or even the general population.’


‘Interventions, whether they be condom promotion or abstinence campaigns, need to be accepted by target populations, and widely and systematically promoted,’ says Ms Cave.


‘Research shows that abstinence only campaigns, for example, do not resonate with young boys or teenagers, but have been more successful when targeted at pre-teen girls.’


A major outcome of the workshop will be the design of an abstinence campaign targeting young girls, drawing on the focus group research and international best practice.


The SPC Public Health Division supports PICTs with STI and HIV prevention; counselling and diagnosis; treatment, care and support as well as leadership, governance and strategic communication.


These activities are made possible due to funding from the HIV and STI Pacific Response Fund, supported by Australia and New Zealand and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and through collaboration with partners including UN agencies.


Photo caption: A Solomon Islands community theatre group encouraging young people to go for an STI test.


For more information please contact Jacinta Isaacs, Strategic Health Communication Officer, SPC Public Health Division at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it