241945 No Good News: Media coverage of HIV/AIDS from 1993-2007

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Robin C. Stevens, PhD, MPH , Center for Health Behavior and Communication Research, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
Shawnika J. Hull, PhD , School of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
Background: HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects African Americans and has throughout the majority of the epidemic. The news media has been instrumental in educating and informing the public about HIV/AIDS. Critics have noted the minimal coverage of HIV/AIDS among African Americans in mainstream news in the face of the clear racial disparities. Media messages that do address the epidemic among African Americans typically emphasize the role of individual behavior, though much of the research suggests that the disparities are largely a product of structural determinants. This study examines the quantity and content of news coverage of HIV/AIDS over a fourteen-year period. Methods: The newspaper coverage of HIV/AIDS was drawn from 24 major U.S. newspapers and one wire service, content analyzed from 1993 to 2007. In total, more than 52,000 news stories related to HIV/AIDS were used to construct the national monthly fluctuations in news coverage. The explicit focus of the content analysis was to quantify which population sub-groups were identified as being at heightened risk for HIV infection. Results: The content analysis revealed several findings. Mainstream press coverage of HIV/AIDS declined significantly, with much of the remaining coverage shifting from a domestic to international focus. Conclusion: News coverage of the epidemic among African-Americans declined, even as the disease burden of HIV/AIDS shifted heavily to this group in the United States. When news stories did address the epidemic among African Americans, the stories typically highlighted prevalence statistics, without contextualizing the disparity.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Communication and informatics
Diversity and culture
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify areas of needed improvement in media discussions of HIV and AIDS.

Keywords: African American, Media

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I conceptualized and conducted the research study
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.