October is AIDS Awareness and Prevention Month -- the first coordinated national AIDS education campaign to be launched by the federal government. Depending primarily on public service announcements during time volunteered by the networks and independent television stations, the U.S. Public Health Service hopes the $4.6 million public education project will help Americans learn about the disease, how it is spread and how it can be prevented.

Most of the 60-second PSAs, produced by Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency, are interviews with people with AIDS or AIDS experts. One 30-second spot exhorts those having sex to use a condom if they are not in a monogamous relationship with an uninfected individual. Some of the announcements are specifically aimed at either the black or the Hispanic community.

Campaign officials hope to get the spots on 1,000 TV and 7,000 radio stations. Each one refers the viewer to the health service's 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, national AIDS hotline: 1-800-342-AIDS, which plays a four-minute recording and then gives a number to call if you wish to speak with a counselor.

In addition, the Public Health Service expects to distribute 45 million AIDS brochures through local health agencies and employers -- although a mailing to every U.S. household will not be done.

The agency also will run a series of 31 discussion groups around the country with AIDS volunteers and educators.

Whether anyone's behavior will be changed by the campaign is not clear; the federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is planning some follow-up studies to determine the campaign's impact.