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Trends and content of media coverage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa by three influential U.S. newspapers, 1983-2008

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Title: Trends and content of media coverage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa by three influential U.S. newspapers, 1983-2008
Author(s): Machungo, Francis
Director of Research: Kalipeni, EzeKiel
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Kalipeni, EzeKiel
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Mclafferty, Sara; Flint, Colin; Wilson, David
Department / Program: Geography
Discipline: Geography
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): HIV/AIDS Epidemic Media Coverage Content Analysis Africa Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Abstract: As a news topic, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa is not a just health story. It is an amalgamation of complex triggers, effects and implications at multiple scales. Moreover, overreliance on bio-medical and epidemiological models often results in an HIV/AIDS geography that tends to reduce socio-economic, political and cultural contexts of place into a narrow set of risky behavioral traits. Hence, media representations of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa are critical to the advancement of knowledge and interventions as well as implications for the images of and policies towards Africa. Consequently, understanding a critical issue that is simultaneously private, public and global such as HIV/AIDS requires an analysis of media coverage. Yet, the current critiques of the US media’s coverage of the epidemic are based on anecdotal evidence. Therefore, the objectives of this dissertation are to collect and synthesize coverage data to provide an empirical basis for these critiques. To achieve these aims, this dissertation draws upon theoretical concepts of news, cultural, health and political geography. Content analysis methodology and descriptive statistics are employed to investigate the trends, content and agents of the HIV/AIDS coverage in select US mainstream media from 1983 to 2008. Specifically, it examines the content and trends in terms of (1) volume and diversity overtime, (2) themes, (3) actors, (4) tones, (5) portrayal of the actors, and (6) distribution of the coverage within Africa. The results indicate (1) an inadequate volume of coverage, (2) simplification, over-generalization as well as complexity of the epidemic and its coverage, (3) a geographic distribution of the coverage that under-represents, over-generalizes and oversimplifies Africa, (4) the dominance of the coverage by US based organizations and individuals, and (5) that the trends exhibit an evolution in thematic, spatial, temporal, contextual and agency characteristics of the epidemic as well as its coverage over time. In summary, this study provides and describes rich and nuanced data that offer evidence of the complexity of the AIDS epidemic in Africa, its coverage and the multiplicity of factors that characterize it. It also provides an empirical foundation for relevant and applicable critiques of the media coverage of the epidemic, Africa and Africans. The data can be utilized to explore a wide variety of future research questions not only of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but of Africa as well as comparative studies elsewhere.
Issue Date: 2012-05-22
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/30987
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Francis Machungo
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-05-22
Date Deposited: 2012-05
 

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