This article uses lessons learned from the HIV pandemic to offer advice on social and behavioral approaches to address COVID-19 transmission.
Based on 40 years of prevention and treatment research of the HIV epidemic, researchers offer perspectives on multiple levels of intervention to understand and elaborate on the social and behavioral lessons learned relevant to COVID-19. The socio-ecological model of health provides the framework for addressing intrapersonal, interpersonal, community, and social factors. Information, motivation, and behavioral skills are essential for initiating individual behavior change but are likely insufficient for sustained change and therefore will need “booster” sessions to support change. The stigmatization of COVID-19 has already begun, and individuals should be wary of language that creates an in-group/out-group mentality. Multi-level community interventions yield more robust and sustainable outcomes because COVID-19 is not an isolated, unidimensional disease so other social concerns must be addressed. Finally, community mobilization involving multiple societal sectors need to appeal to the broader community for a national-level response. Given that there was an overall lack of public health preparedness for the current pandemic, social and behavioral scientists wanting to contain and mitigate COVID-19 will be well-served by the lessons learned in HIV prevention and treatment research.