Processes and participation in HIV and AIDS communication : using bodymapping to explore the experiences of young people.
HIV and AIDS is one of the biggest challenges facing South African young people today (Govender, 2010). Young people are at risk, partly through their own behaviour and partly through the attitudes, expectations and limitations of the societies in which they grow up (Panos AIDS Briefing, 1996).The are many HIV prevention programmes developed globally and nationally, specifically for young people but the pandemic still escalates rapidly. The fourth decade now calls for multidimensional approaches when communicating HIV prevention for young people. This thesis explores how young people can contribute to this multidimensional approach through their active participation in the various phases of developing HIV projects. The study does this through a sample of eight youth-focused HIV organisations in KwaZulu-Natal and a sample of students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, to gain more insight into participation of young people in the development of HIV programmes. Bodymapping, a visual and art-based method, was used to explore young people’s understanding of HIV, their perceptions of HIV programmes and the possibilities of their participation in the developing of further HIV projects. The study used a grounded approach and applied principles of participatory action research to collect data in four phases. The first phase used interviews and focus group discussions with eight sample organisations to give insight into the programmes offered to young people and how they engage and make sense of their participation within these programmes. The second phase draws on previous bodymapping workshops that have been conducted with students from UKZN and young people in various communities to explore the application and relevance of bodymapping. In the third phase, data is presented on two bodymapping workshops conducted, to engage with young people about their contribution to the development of HIV programmes. The final phase draws on two focus group discussions, conducted with bodymapping participants, to examine their experiences and interpretation of the bodymapping process. Some of the key findings indicate that a blanket approach to HIV programmes will not always work, as young people’s sexual behaviour needs to be explored within a wider socio-ecological framework that recognises the inter-relational and interconnected system in which they make their sexual choices. The data indicates that youth and organisations strongly support the importance of participation and the inclusion of participants when developing HIV projects. However, discussions about participation indicated that while young people could identify the importance of participation, they still lacked an understanding of how to participate and how they could learn more about their lived experiences through participation. This was evident in the data where there was a distinction in how participation was defined from those in the UKZN group and those from rural KZN. In understanding what constitutes participation, young people are better positioned to aid the process of developing effective HIV related projects that are participant specific. I argue that bodymapping can be used as a process to initiate and aid the participation of young people in the various phases of developing HIV projects. A three level model for applying bodymapping and planning processes has been developed to encourage participation with young people where the first step ensures that young people define what participation means to them. This becomes the foundation for how communication practitioners and academics make sense and theorise participation from a participant informed perspective. Bodymapping was pivotal in this process of engaging young people in self-reflection and introspection which encouraged a process of dialogue towards better understanding and defining participation from a participant perspective. Bodymapping in this way can be identified as a catalyst that encourages dialogue as part of communication for participatory development.