PhD Baelden
PhD on digital strategies for primary HIV & AIDS prevention in South Africa
01/10/2008 - 30/09/2012
Has been initialized

This PhD wants to explore which role new technologies can play in the fight against HIV & AIDS. The questions that will be addressed are the following: (1) are new technologies able to stimulate dialogue on HIV & AIDS related issues, (2) are new technologies able to fight campaign fatigue among South African university students, (3) what role can online dialogue play in the local knowledge construction concerning sexuality and HIV & AIDS, and (4) can online dialogue lead to changes in the socially constructed ideologies on sexuality and HIV & AIDS?

The psychological strategies for behaviour change, which have been dominant in the field of primary HIV & AIDS prevention, are slowly giving way to a new paradigm. The notion of enabling environments in which dialogue can flourish and behaviour change can occur is increasingly gaining attention. Although this new paradigm still lacks a theoretical framework, the underlying ideas are clear: dialogue and empowerment are the keys to social change and social change is an indispensable condition for individual behaviour change.

One of the issues that need to be addressed concerns the socially constructed harmful ideologies on sexual relationships, such as multiple concurrent partnerships, which have been proven to contribute actively to the spread of HIV & AIDS. As long as certain social norms on sexuality keep prevailing, individual behaviour change will be hard to achieve. It is believed that dialogue can play a considerable part in the construction of local knowledge and new ideologies. It is however not easy to facilitate dialogue on sensitive issues such as sexuality and HIV & AIDS. In addition, more and more studies observe an increasing level of AIDS fatigue when it comes to primary HIV & AIDS prevention.

Some authors believe that ICTs are possibly more appropriate than traditional media to address these issues. There is however no evidence of the positive effects of new technologies, certainly not in a digital divide context. By means of a case study at the University of the Western Cape, this PhD wants to explore whether new technologies are in fact able to stimulate dialogue, fight campaign fatigue, contribute to local knowledge construction, and spur changes in socially constructed ideologies on sexuality.

Partners: University of the Western Cape