The objective of this essay is to understand the representations of the media in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/AIDS issue on gays and bisexual persons within health and social care setting. The importance of the mass media will be discussed to gain insight in promoting awareness on HIV/AIDS. It will clarify some specific theories and models of approach as they relate to mass media context in relation to the case studies and conclude.
Irwin et al (2003) assert that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS epidemic in both developing and developed world including the United Kingdom (UK) has increased to a level that is beyond the control of the human behaviours; as a result, the increasing rate of people infected with the HIV/AIDS and the rate of people dying in terms of mortality rate have caused a concern among policy makers, journalists, governments and the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) throughout the entire world. For example, people infected are estimated at 34 million with HIV/AIDS while people who died is at 1.7 million globally (UNAIDS 2012). This led journalists across the globe including the United Kingdom (UK) to adopt strategies and develop tools to combat the epidemics.
Hart (1991) defines mass media as devices that simultaneously transmit messages to large numbers of people and indicates that media are classified in three different kinds which include presentational, representational, and mechanical or electronic media. The mass media performs three key functions: educating, shaping public relations, and advocating for a particular policy or point of view. As education tools, media not only impart knowledge, but can be part of larger efforts to promote health issues and other related activities (e.g., social marketing) to promote behaviour change social utility (Department of Health 2011).
For instance, when using the social marketing, the mass media targets a particular through poster and other adverts to inform gays and bisexual about the HIV. Beck et al (2005) emphasises that the presentational media ensures face-to-face communication, e.g. speech. He also indicates that the representational media enables messages to be stored, passed over a distance and produced in the absence of the participants because they use symbol codes of prints, graphics and photography to communicate e.g. newspapers, comics and magazines.
Thomson and White (2008) said that the messages are projected through television, radio, newspapers adverts, magazine, leaflets, books, and internet. This is evidenced in the communication model which states that the flow of information is a system of conveying a message in two ways, or in a multiple channels, because individuals will get opinions which are influenced by the type of message to be delivered. The model is based on two step system of information flow which in turn influences the wider community (Wellings and Field 1996). In United Kingdom (UK), the Department of Health allocated £ 2.9 million each year to promote at the national level, the HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns through TV and other adverts (House of Lords 2010).
The application of Marxist theory emphasises on the direct relationship existing between those who have economic power and those who can be able to disseminate information across the society. Tones and Tilford (2001) emphasised that the environmental model of approach is based on the advocating for the prevention of disease rather than depending on medical cure. Medical treatment is limited in providing effective behavioural change and cure. In other perspective, when using the environmental approach, a set of series programmes about HIV has only attempted to raise the awareness of how the disease can be contracted and prevented. Karpf (1998) identified the looking after yourself model said that this model mainly focus on individuals behaviour change.
The concept of look after yourself approach has helped media and health organisations to campaign through TV, Radio and providing advices and necessary information to make people aware of the HIV effects. It also changed the way the society used to perceive the value of culture in line with the HIV/AIDS among gay and bisexual society, and this has become mainstreamed in the society (Miller 2002). McQuail (2010) emphasis that Marxist theory, put emphasis on promoting ideas than looking at material structure of the society.
However, Marxist theory has contributed to the promotion of mass media; its critics depend on how media could have the power to influence the society in order to effectively effect change (McQuail 2010). The functionalist theory is based on the human behaviours which are run by the way social pattern reflect some kind of stability in relation to the social reality (Brym and Lie 2010) For instance, the use of TV as a channel to disseminate information on HIV/AIDS has offered sights and real message to stimulate people representation to understand the significance of the effect of having HIV/AIDS.
Despite the use of TV as means of disseminating the message on HIV/AIDS, has a limited scope in term of coverage because it is often limited to crises (Basten 2009). The UNAIDS (2004) report indicates that with TV there are some costs associated to it, for instance, the cost of advertising a short avert on health issues such as the HIV/AIDS is high, because of time consuming and creative art for the performance to meet a particular market segments ( Hornik 2008). Beck et al (2005) indicates that the use of the radio as a media of communication has the potential to reach diverse groups of people and huge number of people within the community.