A study of South African newspapers’ coverage of HIV and AIDS pandemic and audience attitudes in Limpopo Province

Date: May 18, 2016
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The South African mass media have been actively involved in the efforts to address the country’s HIV and AIDS pandemic. Their news contents are well received by the general public, who greatly depend on them for their information and educational needs concerning the disease. Though substantial progress has been made towards reducing the spread of HIV and AIDS in the society, South Africa is still impacted adversely on different aspects of the society’s wellbeing. Sustaining the gains in expanded treatment access and reversing the pandemic in South Africa require greater progress in reducing the rate of new HIV infection. Therefore, collective, consistent and concerted effort of the media, Government, civil society and other stakeholders can stop it on its track, and reduce the incidence rate (new infections) to zero level, while the country and the world wait in hope for vaccine and cure for the disease. Since education has been recognised as a powerful weapon against HIV transmission, consistent and regularly updated public education on all aspects of the pandemic by the media are still necessary. The quality, quantity and frequency of media efforts and readiness to be effectively involved in the whole effort for its success cannot be over emphasised. The present study is a content analysis of South African mass media output on HIV and AIDS covering 12 months (366 days), and public perception and attitude towards their coverage of the pandemic. MATERIALS AND METHODS A mixed method research approach and design, incorporating quantitative and qualitative research methodologies was employed in this research. Quantitative research method was used to collect data (desk research with content analysis) from twelve months editions of five national newspapers stratified as tabloid and broadsheet newspapers. A random sampling technique was used to select a study sample (5 national newspapers) out of the two categories as classified above. A total of 366 days or editions of the sampled mass media were therefore studied. The analyses of data (content analysis) on each of the main headings and topics, variables and sub-variables were presented on quarterly and year basis. The data obtained were coded based on the research variables, sub-variables and analysed. The public perception and attitude of South African media coverage of HIV and AIDS was studied using questionnaire and analysed quantitatively, and qualitatively where necessary. v RESULTS South African mass media communicated high quality HIV and AIDS news stories to the public in the year 2010. In the analysis of the quality of media content, the six variables that were used to assess the media HIV and AIDS news reports, in both analyses (simple descriptive statistics and one-way ANOVA analyses), showed that the media reports were technically competent (99%) (see operational definition of terms), and characterized by high number of high confidential reporting (93%), with good combination of journalistic styles and creativity in HIV and AIDS reporting (99%). There were also good level of research (96%), objectivity (96%) and use of journalistic skills (99%). However, HIV and AIDS news reports were mainly in straight news format (73%) without adequate mixture of the various news types that would have further enhanced the media success in increasing public awareness and knowledge of the disease, and thereby helped further to mitigate and manage the pandemic. Though South African media depended heavily on outside sources (79%) (for examples, Government, CSOs, private organizations) for HIV and AIDS news, (an unhealthy condition for media effectiveness), they seem to have skilfully managed this situation through the use of further news research and investigation (73%), and probably edited out possible publicity contents, capable of blurring the objective of their HIV and AIDS news reports. Furthermore, HIV and AIDS prevention (27%), testing (18%) and treatment (11%) dominated media HIV and AIDS news subjects (56% in total) following Government’s HIV and AIDS Testing and Counselling campaign (HTC) along the same line throughout the period studied, resulting in the success of the campaign and against the pandemic. The results also indicated that South African media appropriately used “constructive and informative” language (99%) in communicating HIV and AIDS news stories, though with some fluctuations between “very constructive and informative” (58%) and “constructive and informative” HIV and AIDS new stories (41%). However, their “tone” in the reports were consistently positive (good) and supportive of the nation’s efforts against HIV and AIDS (94%). The media used mostly professional or appropriate HIV and AIDS news reporting words and language (99%) without such sensational and stigmatizing words as “killer disease”, ‘dead sentence”, “victim of HIV”, “HIV/AIDS suffer”, and “killed by AIDS”. Their news reports also showed low percentage of blame on HIV and AIDS infection attributed to “Reckless lifestyle” (8%) and “Blame on husband” (2%). These percentages (although low) were the highest from the analysis of blame for HIV and AIDS infection. vi Additionally, the South African media generally reported on domestic HIV and AIDS matters (77%) with direct bearing on the life of the populace, and mixed with very limited foreign HIV and AIDS news items (23%). This approach enabled the people to identify with the news stories on HIV and AIDS, but at the same time enriched their knowledge with interesting new developments on HIV and AIDS from international news scene. Equally, the media rightly reported HIV and AIDS as development (84%) and health issue (12%). Generally, the content analysis result revealed that South African media accorded some importance to the pandemic, but not at the expense of other news items that were equally of national interest. Hence, the high percentage location of HIV and AIDS news stories on “Other page numbers” (93%), very limited placement of HIV and AIDS reports on important pages (7%), and limited editorial space allocation to HIV and AIDS in the period of study (5111 column width inches or 0.9% of the newspaper editorial space available in the year). However, HIV and AIDS items of special importance were featured prominently on newspaper pages (51%). This management pattern points to a special skill with which the media sustained the public awareness of the pandemic amongst other competing news items of national interest. Though, there was low coverage (quantity) of HIV and AIDS news by the media (a total of 345 HIV and AIDS news stories in a year), the result showed gradual increase in media coverage of HIV and AIDS stories from 1st to the 4th quarters in the period (19%, 17%, 26% and 38% respectively), indicating gradual increase in the response of the media to the pandemic within the study period. Public Perception and Attitude to South African Media Coverage of HIV and AIDS The media (TV, radio and newspaper) (75%) were the main source of regular HIV and AIDS news information in Limpopo Province of South Africa, followed by health officers (69%), indicating that a large segment of the people depends on the media for their HIV and AIDS information and updates. The public seems to have accepted, and has high level of trust on the media as an authentic source of HIV and AIDS information and as a role player on issues of national interest such as HIV and AIDS pandemic. However, the media are not held as the most trustworthy source of HIV and AIDS information. “Doctors and other health care givers” was the most trusted source of HIV and AIDS in Limpopo Province (South Africa) (73%) followed by the media. Television was the most trusted source of HIV and AIDS information among the media (71%), followed by radio (53%) and then, newspaper (45%). There is adequate HIV and AIDS coverage (87%) and knowledge level of HIV and AIDS in the Province (79%), but the public are still interested in accessing and consuming more HIV and AIDS news vii information. South Africans in Limpopo Province love media information and entertainment (TV 97%, radio 96%, newspaper 94%) and there is high media penetration in the province (TV 100%, radio 93%, newspaper 83%), with high exposure and access to media contents both on weekdays (TV 100%, radio 98%) and weekends (TV 83%, radio 63%, newspaper 75%). Television is exceptionally loved by South Africans among the media, with the entire audience members owning the medium (100%), followed by radio (93%), and newspaper (83%). The media have greatly improved their coverage of HIV and AIDS by adequately informing and educating the public on all aspects of the disease (89%); discouraging stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS (85%), not stereotyping the disease as disease of the poor and immoral (89%), and have greatly improved their language use (85%) to the benefit of the people. The media coverage have been significant in promoting HIV and AIDS prevention (95%), testing (97%), caregiving (92%), HIV and AIDS free generation (91%) and other related issues in South Africa. All stakeholders in the fight against the pandemic must seriously address the various catalyst or drivers of HIV and AIDS pandemic such as fear of discrimination against HIV and IDS positive individuals (51%), poverty (67%), alcoholism and drugs (62%), STIs (63%), multiple sexual partnership (79%), rape (65%), and reckless lifestyle which largely to some extent still exist in the society. Other drivers of the pandemic were increasing HIV and AIDS infection (42%), and the commonly accepted unplanned teenage pregnancy (53%). There is therefore, a strong link between people’s socio-cultural behavior as drivers of HIV and AIDS in Limpopo Province, South Africa and attitudinal change towards the pandemic. The media must address them thoroughly for tangible positive effects to be recorded at both the individual and societal levels. There is presently easy access to HIV and AIDS testing (68%), counselling and treatment (68%) contrary to the early days of the pandemic due to the easily accessible Government’s HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, counselling and care programme. however, more improvement is needed in the frequency of the teams’ visit to those localities that don’t yet have easy access to medical clinics or hospitals. Overall, the result indicated that multiple sexual partnership ranked the highest HIV and AIDS problem of concern in the society, followed by poverty, rape, STIs, alcohol and drugs, and unplanned teenage pregnancy. viii KEY WORDS HIV and AIDS news coverage, HIV and AIDS news reporting, HIV and AIDS news reports, HIV and AIDS news stories, media and HIV and AIDS pandemic, content analysis of HIV and AIDS news stories, impacts of HIV and AIDS, HIV and AIDS media discourse, South Africa and HIV and AIDS pandemic, HIV and AIDS prevalence rate, HIV and AIDS incidence rate, Expanded access to HIV and AIDS treatment, HIV and AIDS Prevention, Treatment and Care (HTC) programme, public perception of media HIV and AIDS coverage, public attitude to media HIV and AIDS coverage.

Author: Mbajiorgu, Maduabuchukwu Christopher
Publisher: University of Limpopo
Year of Publication: 2014
Download : mbajiorgu_mc.2014.pdf