Manufacturing consent?: Media messages in the mobilization against HIV/AIDS in India and lessons for health communication

Health Commun. 2014;29(3):288-98. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2012.753139. Epub 2013 Apr 30.


Despite repeated calls for a more critical and "culture-centered" approach to health communication, textual analysis of televised public service advertising (PSA) campaigns has been largely neglected, even by critical communication scholars. In the case of "developing" countries in particular, there is an acute shortage of such literature. On the other hand, following the outbreak of major public health diseases such as AIDS, most countries have adopted PSA campaigns as the most preferred means of communicating messages. Drawing on insights from cultural studies (especially Antonio Gramsci and Stuart Hall), this article engages in textual analysis of the televised PSA campaigns launched by the Indian state to prevent HIV/AIDS between 2002 and 2005. Through such analysis, it argues that although few diseases in Indian history have spurred such massive and creative efforts for mass mobilization as AIDS, these efforts, in terms of their ethical implications, have been far from emancipatory. In fact, they have constructed and perpetuated the logic of domination and control along class, gender, sexuality, and knowledge systems, often contradicting and potentially harming the very goal of HIV prevention and of health promotion and empowerment. This article also holds that assessing public health campaigns through textual analysis, a highly neglected tool in health communication, can shed important light on a far more complex and changing nature of the state and public policy, especially in the developing world, thereby opening up space for alternative theorizing for health communication and social change.

MeSH terms

  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • Health Communication* / methods
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • India
  • Mass Media*