A Tale of Two Risks: The Framing of HIV Transmission Risk in Health Brochures
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The framing of a health issue such as HIV transmission risk may directly impact public opinion, which plays a significant role in the formation of health policies. Brochures are an important piece of HIV treatment and prevention efforts, so it is essential to understand how HIV transmission is discussed within these commonly used educational materials. This study evaluated the framing of HIV transmission risk in 31 HIV-related health brochures gathered from county health departments in the Greater Kansas City Area. The frame analysis revealed two primary frames used to construct the larger category of HIV transmission risk: risk behaviors and “risk” groups. Further analysis revealed that the frames compete with one another to explain how HIV is transmitted. While the risk behaviors frame identifies behaviors such as injection drug use (IDU), drugs and alcohol, and unprotected sex as the culprits of HIV transmission, the risk groups frame points to specific populations, namely women, heterosexuals, African Americans and teenagers and young adults. Moreover, the frames provide contending views of who is at risk for HIV. The risk behaviors frame presents anyone who engages in “risky” behaviors as at risk for HIV/AIDS, while the risk groups frame highlights the risk associated with being a member of a specific population. Interestingly, older adults and homosexual individuals are almost entirely excluded from the discussion of HIV transmission risk within the brochures. In addition to competing with one another to present at-risk groups, the frames overlap as an inconsistent presentation of risk-free activities within the risk behaviors frame perpetuates the misunderstanding that HIV can be transmitted via casual social contact, which has implications for groups identified as at-risk within the risk groups frame; the implications can be dire as a lack of understanding regarding how the disease is not transmitted has been directly linked to negative attitudes toward people living with HIV/AIDS (and presumably groups considered at-risk for HIV). The paper concludes with a further discussion detailing the implications of the framing of HIV transmission risk within the brochures.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Review of literature -- Methodology -- Results/findings -- Conclusion -- Appendix A. Detailed listing of brochures -- Appendix B. Code book -- Appendix C. Spreadsheet: images of race/ethnicity by brochure number