A critical assessment of theories/models used in health communication for HIV/AIDS

J Health Commun. 2000:5 Suppl:5-15. doi: 10.1080/10810730050019528.


Most theories and models used to develop human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) communication are based on social psychology that emphasizes individualism. Researchers including communication and health scholars are now questioning the presumed global relevance of these models and thus the need to develop innovative theories and models that take into account regional contexts. In this paper, we discuss the commonly used theories and models in HIV/AIDS communication. Furthermore, we argue that the flaws in the application of the commonly used "classical" models in health communication are because of contextual differences in locations where these models are applied. That is to say that these theories and models are being applied in contexts for which they were not designed. For example, the differences in health behaviors are often the function of culture. Therefore, culture should be viewed for its strength and not always as a barrier. The metaphorical coupling of "culture" and "barrier" needs to be exposed, deconstructed, and reconstructed so that new, positive, cultural linkages can be forged. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has served as a flashpoint to either highlight the importance or deny the relevance of theories and models while at the same time addressing the importance of culture in the development and implementation of communication programs.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health / ethnology*
  • Communication*
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Health Behavior / ethnology
  • Health Education*
  • Humans
  • Models, Psychological
  • Organizational Innovation