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Columbia Journalism Review. 2004 Mar-Apr; (2 Suppl):1-8.HIV/AIDS took the U.S. by surprise in the 1980s, and it continues to be a health epidemic with unique characteristics. As a news topic, HIV/AIDS has not only been a health story, but also one about arts, culture, taboo, sexuality, religion, celebrity, business, and politics on the local, national, and global stage. Media coverage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic has, at times, helped shape the policy agenda, while also reflecting current policy discussions, debates and important events. In many cases, the news media have served as an important source of information about the epidemic for the public. In an October 2003 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 72% of the U.S. public said that most of the information they get about HIV/AIDS comes from the media, including television, newspapers, and radio. (excerpt)
In: AIDS. Prevention through education: a world view, edited by Jaime Sepulveda, Harvey Fineberg, Jonathan Mann. New York, New York, Oxford University Press, 1992. 255-72.US public health officials have depended on the broadcast media to deliver potent anti-AIDS messages to vast audiences. While most Americans now know a great deal about AIDS, this knowledge has not always resulted in the adoption of preventive behavior. Since promoting condom use will result in the greatest reduction in AIDS transmission, messages which are targeted to homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual audiences and are designed to address the psychological barriers to condom use are needed. It is difficult to convince the broadcast media to communicate targeted messages, even to heterosexuals, for fear of the political and economic repercussions of viewer alienation. The media has been used successfully to promote health, and anti-AIDS campaigns have achieved a high level of understanding of the disease on the part of the public. These include the American Red Cross' "Rumors Are Spreading Faster Than AIDS" and the Centers for Disease Control's "America Responds to AIDS" and print advertisements for condom use. The news media has played a role in informing, and sometimes confusing, the public by presenting unchallenged and unsubstantiated inaccurate reports, especially in the early days of the disease. Surveys now indicate that AIDS knowledge is good in areas that have been the focus of media reports, and awareness of the role of condoms to prevent transmission is high, higher in fact than the use of condoms. It is time to move beyond delivering current information and to begin motivating condom use. Condoms are maligned in the US and are associated with reduced pleasure or "illicit" sex, requesting their use also raises issues of interpersonal trust. These specific concerns need to be addressed, but the current standards of the national broadcast media block delivery of messages to motivate condom use. Entertainment programming is a possible source, since it is only subject to general guidelines, depending on audience and context, but these opportunities are not frequent enough to make a significant difference. To successfully promote condoms, their image has to be changed to that of a product used by couples rather than individuals which might actually enhance sexual pleasure, and peer consensus in favor of condom use must be implied. Marketing efforts using suggestive names and slogans and offering different shapes, colors, and textures are attempting such an image change. In light of current media restrictions, it is important to develop community-based educational programs which focus on condom promotion and can be assisted by local mass media. Local sentiment will ultimately dictate whether paid condom adds or public service spots will be used to address the psychological barriers to condom use.
WASHINGTON POST. 1987 Feb 3; E1, E8.This newspaper feature story documents how the major U.S. television networks are breaking their self censorship of mentioning contraception and sexual responsibility in programs and advertisements. The first direct screening of word "condom" occurred on the series "Cagney and Lacey" in January 1988, followed by screening an image of a condom package on "Valerie" in February. At the same time, some stations are broadcasting tasteful 15-second ads for condoms. Phrases used in these ads included "for all the right reasons," and "I'll do a lot for love...but I'm not ready to die for it." It is likely that the threat of AIDS has prompted the revolutionary airing of the forbidden word during family viewing hours. The public response, particularly that of educators, has been largely favorable, although a Catholic spokesman complained that the ads encourage illicit sex purely to enlarge market share of condom markers. Five references to the value of sexual responsibility were cited on prime time shows in recent months. The vice president of CBS said that the network was trying to do anything that would help prevent AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. They have permitted no reference to practice of contraception in programming so far, even though characters are frequently shown in sexually explicit situations.
Journal of Communication. 1985 Spring; 35(2):69-81.Diaspora Jewry is being diminished in numbers by intermarriage, assimilation, and a low birth rate. In Israel, the establishment has strongly pronatalist convictions and tends to see family planning as synonymous with promotion of the use of contraception to limit births. In 1978 and 1979, a series of programs entitled "It's Not A Children's Game" was broadcast on Israel's state-owned radio broadcasting system. The motto of the series was "to help families have as many children as they want, when they want them." Its goals were to give the public basic information about services and about various means of contraception or of fertility improvement. The letters to the radio station in response to these programs are analyzed in this study. Based on the form and content of the letters, one is able to derive information about the marital status, sex, residence, and religious observance of the letter writers and to classify them as primarily help-seekers or opinion-givers. Help-seeking letters were usually very clear and direct in their requests for help. The opinion-giving letters ranged from strongly negative to strongly positive about the program and the theme of family planning. These letters can provide insights about the specific group of people who sought information or help outside of their immediate surroundings. Thus, an analysis of the written responses to a radio series on family planning suggests that radio can offer a nonthreatening way to disseminate information on sensitive and controversial social issues, and that it is possible to tentatively identify subgroups with special needs.