On World AIDS Day (1 December), the Universal Postal Union (UPU) reflects on a global health campaign launched more than a decade ago to raise awareness of HIV prevention using the postal network.
At the time, the campaign was the largest health initiative ever undertaken by the global postal sector. It is initiatives like this, and the UPU’s Post4Health campaign, which was launched in March this year, that highlight the Post’s vital role in health outreach and awareness.
The global HIV prevention campaign was launched in July 2007 alongside the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNI Global Union. The program was initially launched in seven countries: Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Estonia, Mali, and Nigeria, but was expanded globally.
The initiative had two key aspects. First, it saw campaign materials, including posters and leaflets, distributed to the public, highlighting how to prevent HIV. Second, alongside the ILO, a toolkit was created to help employers develop an appropriate workplace policy on HIV/AIDS. In 2011, the campaign culminated with posts issuing special postage stamps to mark 30 years since the discovery of AIDS.
Speaking at the time, the then Director General of the UPU, Edouard Dayan, said, “It is the single largest health-awareness initiative ever launched globally by the postal sector, demonstrating the huge outreach and value of the universal services it provides.”
One of the largest participants in the campaign was Correios in Brazil. The operator joined the initiative in early 2010 with its “Post Offices Fighting Against AIDS” campaign, which included the slogan, “The post offices are fighting against AIDS. What about you? Protect yourself: use condoms.”
Throughout the campaign, Correios raised awareness of HIV/AIDS throughout the whole of Brazil. More than 12,000 post offices were involved in the program, which saw 15,000 folders and 168,000 postcards on HIV prevention distributed to the public and employees. Correios went beyond the international initiative by delivering an additional 800,000 letters to homes with HIV prevention messages.
Correios also developed its own website alongside UNAIDS, www.correioscontraaids.org.br, which according to the post, “included playful and interactive information related to prevention, forms of contagion, combating discrimination and questions and answers about HIV testing.”
Furthermore, Correios worked with UNICO, Brazil’s postal university, to offer an online course to more than 117,000 employees to raise awareness of HIV prevention. UNAIDS developed the distance learning programs. The program culminated in 2011 through the issue of eight stamps that illustrated the risks to contract HIV and the correct ways to prevent it.
Now more than 14 years since the launch of the global HIV/AIDS prevention campaign, the UPU is once again highlighting the role posts can play in health outreach. It’s Post4Health facility, for example, aims to assist posts with COVID-19-related awareness and support the vaccine response.
To date, the facility has been sponsored by La Poste Group in France and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication in Japan. Just like the HIV/AIDS prevention campaign, Post4Health will work with governments, national and global health authorities, and postal operators to help deliver responses to the pandemic and to help operators build a long-term business case for health services.