Effects of news representations on attitudes toward people living with HIV/AIDS: A cross-cultural comparison of Taiwan and Hong Kong

Mei-Ling Hsu, Hao-chieh Chang

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Stigma and discrimination have been considered a major obstacle to effective HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Reports of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are prevalent, and the negative consequences call for further corrective measures and scholarly investigation (Blendon & Donelan, 1988; UNAIDS, 2003). Protecting human rights and promoting public health are perceived as mutually reinforcing by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the main worldwide advocate for accelerated, comprehensive and coordinated global action on the HIV epidemic. Nevertheless, elimination of HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination continues to pose challenges for the public health policy makers and implementers in many parts of the world. For years, research has documented the barriers hindering the local stakeholders from respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the legitimate human rights of PLWHA due to various social, legal, political and economical concerns (e.g., Dodds, 2006; Herek, Widaman & Capitanio, 2005; Kohi, Makoae, Chirwa, Holzemer, Phetlhu, et al., 2006). One of the major sources of HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination is related to how the disease and PLWHA have been represented in popular discourse. News coverage plays a crucial role in portraying how such stigma and discrimination have been treated in society, especially in cultures or regions where the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is relatively low and most of their people have not had direct contact with PLWHA. Multiple studies have identified news media as important sources of HIV/AIDS related issues and information for both individual citizens and policy makers around the world (Edgar, Noar, & Freimuth, 2008; Freimuth, Greenberg, DeWitt, & Romano, 1984; Fuller, 2003; Simpkins & Brenner, 1984; Wallack, 1990; Weiss, 1974). News media, however, can serve both positive and negative functions in surveillance and social integration. Due to their prevalence in modern society, news media can have a stronger impact on public cognition, attitudes and preventive behaviors than media campaigns. On the other hand, the accuracy and amount of information provided by the media may contribute to misguided individual and pubic choices for action against the epidemic. Such misguidance and misinformation are particularly salient in representations of HIV/AIDS and PLWHA in the news. This study thus aims to explore whether different ways of representing PLWHA in the news, specifically the transmission routes, can affect how individuals perceive the related issues. Additionally, we are interested in how gender and cultural background influence such perceptions. In this case, we chose Taiwan and Hong Kong, two societies with similar cultural backgrounds but different HIV/AIDS policies and intervention measures, for the comparison.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-68
Number of pages14
JournalChina Media Report Overseas
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


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