Media against AIDS

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Publication 1-year master student thesis
Title Media against AIDS
Author(s) Hansson Gossé, Kerstin
Date 2002
English abstract
Tanzania is one of the countries in the world with the highest rates of HIV-infection. Since there is no cure, not even life prolonging drugs available for Tanzanians, HIV-prevention must focus on making people change behaviour; that is practice safer sex. This study explores how Tanzanian media workers approach the issues of HIV/AIDS and sexuality. I have gathered information from interviews with media workers at radio, television and daily papers. The result shows that mass media frequently report about the epidemic and media workers think that they have an impact. However, this study shows that there are several crucial flaws in the HIV-information conveyed by Tanzanian mainstream media. For instance, I argue that mass media are too distanced from their audience. The information about AIDS derives mostly from political statements, workshops and statistics. It is very rare that media institutions approach “the man in the street” and ask him about his opinion about this topic that by all means concerns all Tanzanians. Also, there seems to be very little reflection among media workers how the information is perceived on grass root levels. Most of them take for granted that their audience understand the media messages. I would not be too so sure. There is a widespread habit of adjusting language until it becomes politically correct. Many words that I believe would be helpful when reporting about HIV/AIDS and sexuality are taboo. There are few visions how mass media can be used to transform traditional values and for instance speak more open about sexuality. The youth magazine Femina represents a different approach to sexual reproductive health communication in Tanzania. The magazine uses straight talk about sexuality and has become increasingly popular among young people. Femina has been a reference point during my interviews with media workers. They approve of the somewhat bold magazine as long as the information do not fall into the hands of people that will be offended or harmed by the message, primarily children and old people. I argue that linguistic taboos are one of the big obstacles for a successful HIV-communication in Tanzania. How can mass media empower people, especially youths, to negotiate safer sex if the words related to sexuality are forbidden or too vague to be fully understood? Official Swahili has a limited vocabulary related to sexuality and slang words used by young people have difficulties to find their way into the media houses. In this aspect I believe that Femina has an important task to do. In their contacts with young people they can identify new words related to sexuality. By putting them on print, the magazine has a chance to gradually make them accepted and consequently enrich Swahili in a field where the vocabulary is lacking behind the devastating HIV-epidemic.
Publisher Malmö högskola/Konst, kultur, kommunikation, K3
Language eng (iso)
Subject(s) media
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