The potential for political leadership in HIV/AIDS communication campaigns in Sub-Saharan Africa

Glob Health Action. 2017;10(1):1270525. doi: 10.1080/16549716.2017.1270525.


Background: The HIV/AIDS epidemic has become a point of important political concern for governments especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. Clinical and public health interventions to curb the epidemic can be greatly enhanced with the strategic support of political leaders.

Objective: We analyzed the role of national political leadership in large-scale HIV/AIDS communications campaigns in 14 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods: We primarily reviewed grey and white literature published from 2005-2014. We further triangulated data from in-person and phone interviews with key public health figures.

Results: A number of themes emerged supporting political leaders' efforts toward HIV/AIDS program improvement, including direct involvement of public officials in campaign spearheading, the acknowledgment of personal relationship to the HIV epidemic, and public testing and disclosure of HIV status. Areas for future improvement were also identified, including the need for more directed messaging, increased transparency both nationally and internationally and the reduction of stigmatizing messaging from leaders.

Conclusions: The political system has a large role to play within the healthcare system, particularly for HIV/AIDS. This partnership between politics and the health must continue to strengthen and be leveraged to effect major change in behaviors and attitudes across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; Political leadership; Sub-Saharan Africa.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Communication*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Politics*
  • Public Health Administration / methods*

Grants and funding

Funding sources for this research included a Global Short Term Training Grant provided by the UCLA Center for World Health and the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine.