Sigma Research

Messages of responsibility: HIV/AIDS prevention materials in England

Health: An interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 2002, 6(2):139-171 (doi:10.1177/136345930200600202).

Authors: C Dodds


This article investigates messages of responsibility expressed in HIV/AIDS health promotion literature produced in England. Critical academic literature provides an analysis of the impact of overly individualized approaches to responsibility for health, which lead to victim blaming. While some of the materials in this sample demonstrate the type of simplistic approach to responsibility addressed by this literature, there are also some expressing shared social and organizational responsibility for AIDS prevention. These complex differences will be discussed in the article with reference to specific examples of image and text from prevention materials. I argue that isolated messages of individual responsibility alone do not encourage readers to identify with the broader social context of the epidemic. It is not only possible but imperative that to integrate notions of broader shared responsibilities into public health efforts in order to generate a community response that includes attempts to reduce social vulnerability among those most at risk of contracting the virus. This has implications for the success of future HIV prevention efforts both in England and globally.


AIDS; HIV; public health; responsibility

Available FREE online

Tagged under: HIV policy and practice