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South African women's magazines and health communication : a reception analysis of HIV and AIDS messages in five most circulated magazines in South Africa.

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The aim of this study is to discover the relationship between health, media and gender, more specifically HIV and AIDS prevention, women’s magazines and women as readers. This research has been conducted within a Master’s dissertation at the Centre for Communication, Culture, Media & Society (CCMS) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2012 and the primary emphasis is on media reception and the way in which women make sense of women’s magazines messages, particularly of HIV and AIDS messages. Therefore, the study’s focus is on media consumption, influences of women’s magazines and personal interpretation of embedded messages. The aim is to identify the role of women’s magazines as part of mass media within a particular field of communication rather than to identify the magazines’ impact on gender roles. My study will discover the reception of health messages on HIV and AIDS surrounded by controversial messages on femininity and gender stereotypes. The main research questions are: i) How, why and when are recipients using women’s magazines? ii) How are recipients perceiving and interpreting HIV and AIDS messages in women’s magazines, and specifically within the context of contradictory messages on sex, femininity and gender roles? iii) And, if and how are health messages in women’s magazines influencing recipients and their interaction with others? The interpretive qualitative research paradigm is applied and the method of qualitative interviews is used for collecting the data. The uses and gratification theory, social learning/social cognitive theory, the concept of entertainment education (EE), and the women-centred sense-making approach are consulted. As an overall result, the analysis reflects a positive picture and interpretation of women’s magazines by the participants, but it also shows the dual character of women’s magazines. Contradictions and critique on content were expressed, positive and negative features were identified, female stereotypes and at the same time the enjoyment of reading was noted, and with regards to health messages, the overall reception was predominantly positive and various content elements seemed to be relevant for the participants. In conclusion, the decisive factors for health messages on HIV and AIDS in women’s magazines, identified in my study are: motivation as an important stage, according to social learning/social cognitive theory in order 7 to enable behaviour modelling; relatedness, originally identified as a third human need within the self-determination theory, which helps to strengthen intrinsic motivation; the dual character of women’s magazines as an on-going conflict between the pleasure of reading a magazine and the consciousness of reprehensible stereotypes and female roles; the sense of female community and finally the role of readers as female opinion leaders. These results present women’s magazines as a multifaceted medium and might influence future research and programmes for health communication on HIV and AIDS prevention. Key words: Women, health, HIV and AIDS, women’s magazines, print media, reception analysis, HIV and AIDS communication, development communication, media usage, media consumption, health messages, relatedness, duality.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2013.


Communication in public health--South Africa., Women's mass media--Social aspects--South Africa, Communication in medicine--South Africa., AIDS (Disease) and mass media--South Africa., AIDS (Disease) in mass media., Theses--Culture, communication and media studies.