AIDS is a global epidemic, and the only way to counter its spread is by having a well-informed global population. AIDS education organizations work to disseminate accurate, appropriate information to populations around the world. The information may focus on prevention or treatment. It may help an at-risk community recognize symptoms, understand safe-sex practices or learn about careful prescription use. It may work to counteract stereotypes, such as the misconception that AIDS is confined to intravenous drug users or gay men -- a belief that endangers quite a few people who don't realize they are at risk. It may also focus on tolerance since, in many areas, AIDS sufferers become the targets of prejudice, even hate crimes [source: Avert].
The human audience is diverse, and a huge part of AIDS education is knowing which messages are best suited for which audiences. For example, not every audience is literate. Pamphlets won't work with a population that can't read. For those populations, education groups must work to establish face-to-face ways of communicating their life-saving information. Working within existing social structures or trusted organizations can help [source: American Red Cross].
In many areas, AIDS education organizations must work to educate governments as well as citizens. Slow official response -- or, worse, ill-informed official response -- has helped the epidemic spread in far too many places, including the United States. AIDS education groups must sometimes work in opposition to an official policy of ignorance or misinformation. Even though a group may seek only to help individual citizens fight a rapacious disease, this work can quickly become political, even controversial.
One of the most significant factors in the spread of AIDS is denial. The disease can be silent, virtually symptomless; someone who is HIV-positive may feel so healthy that he is convinced he cannot be sick [source: Avert]. Sometimes it's a major victory just to persuade someone to get an HIV test. When that happens, a testing organization can help. Read on.