Introduction Before AIDS, the approach to epidemics of infectious diseases in Germany was regulated by the Federal Law on Communicable Diseases (Bundesseuchengesetz) which provides for control and containment strategies, including the compulsory registration of infected persons and, if necessary, compulsory treatment and quarantine. With the appearance of AIDS new strategies were implemented to combat the spread of a contagious disease. The decision not to employ traditional strategies, but to initiate nationwide prevention campaigns based on Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1986) was a significant step. The decisive factors were the lack of effective treatment options for HIV and the realisation that identifying and isolating people who were infected would be useless because of the long period of latency and the pandemic spread of the disease. Another important issue was that people affected by HIV organised themselves into self-help initiatives. In this way, they gained political influence on the development of a prevention approach which focused on the human needs of the groups most affected, as opposed to the characteristics of the pathogenic agent itself. (See Frankenberg and Hanebeck, Chapter 4; Schilling, Chapter 8.)
It took time for the conflict about AIDS prevention in Germany to coalesce into a consensus position supporting a long-term national AIDS strategy organised as a social learning process, based on the principles of co-operation between the relevant institutions and organisations in the country. (See Frankenberg and Hanebeck, Chapter 4.) AIDS has been and will continue to be a major challenge within the overall modern public health strategy.