Recent meta-analyses of HIV/AIDS health communication show that fear appeals have a negative effect on condom use. It has been argued that these negative effects may apply to certain behaviors (condom use) but not to others (e.g., sexual abstinence), and that these negative effects occur for Western cultures but not necessarily for African cultures. To assess whether the effects of fear appeals depend on the types of behavior recommended and on the cultural background of the target audience, information is needed on the existence of cultural differences with respect to the fear evoked by various consequences, as well as to the perceived effectiveness of various countermeasures. In this study, we present the results of a survey among 435 South African adolescents (age 1219) who differ with respect to their cultural orientation, living circumstances, religion, etc. The results provide evidence for the presence of cultural differences with respect to evoked fear, response efficacy, and self-efficacy. Furthermore, the results provide a possible explanation why fear appeals often are ineffective within the context of communication about HIV/AIDS.

Key Words: fear appeals cultural differences health communication persuasion South Africa
Health communication in South Africa

The size as well as the severity of the consequences of the HIV/AIDS problem in South Africa can hardly be overestimated. Communication can play a supporting role in curbing the pandemic and its negative consequences. However, to attain that goal, the communication and message strategies have to be adapted carefully to the needs, beliefs, and values of the various segments of the South African population. Together with colleagues from South African and Dutch universities, two research projects have been started to improve the quality of the HIV/AIDS related communication. The first of these projects, EPIDASA, was completed in 2007. The second project, HACALARA, started in 2007. Both projects are funded by SANPAD

Selected publications:

Jansen, C., Hoeken, H., Ehlers, D., & Slik, F. van der (2008). Cultural differences in perceptions of fear and efficacy in South Africa. Adapting Health Communication to Cultural Needs (pp. 107-128). Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Swanepoel, P. H., & Hoeken, H. (Eds.) (2008). Adapting Health Communication to Cultural Needs. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

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