POL aims to spread messages about a variety of health behaviors (e.g., adopting safer-sex behaviors, seeking HIV antibody testing, disclosing HIV status to sex partners, seeking prevention and medical services) throughout a community. Usually, 1 risk influencing factor, or community norm, is targeted.
Popular Opinion Leader (POL) is an HIV/AIDS risk-reduction program in which groups of trusted, well-liked people are recruited and trained to conduct a novel and particular type of outreach. This outreach focuses on a specific risk-influencing factor, a community norm, such as endorsement of safer-sex behaviors. Opinion leaders endorse targeted risk-reduction behaviors by having casual, 1-on-1 conversations with their friends and acquaintances (peers) in their own social network (friendship group).1 Only specific peers in social networks are opinion leaders, those who are the most popular, credible, and trusted in their social network. The settings are those in which social networks can be counted or estimated and shared attitudes about HIV risk can be described. Gay bars and community centers used by women in low-income housing have been successful settings. Although originally for men who have sex with men, the POL intervention techniques have been successfully adapted to a variety of risk populations and settings. POL has been packaged by CDC’s Diffusion of Effective Behavioral Interventions project; information on obtaining the intervention training and materials is available at www.effectiveinterventions.org