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Tiphane Curry’s Black Women’s Meaning-making of HIV/AIDS Campaigns: a Black Feminist Approach to the Impact of Race on the Reception of Targeted Health Communication.
Tiphane P.Curry was so much dedicated and focused in preparing and publishing the article Black Women’s Meaning-making of HIV/AIDS Campaigns: a Black Feminist Approach to the Impact of Race on the Reception of Targeted Health Communication. The main objective of the study was to understand how black women make meaning of HIV/AIDS communication. It combines black women epistemology with the situational theory of publics in an examination of black females’ meaning of HIV/AIDS communication. Twenty interviews were conducted deeply with black women under the age of 35.
The findings showed that targeted publics may choose not to process messages because messages inaccurately represent their identity or not to seek information because they do not want to face judgment from others who associate their identity with a health problem because of targeted messages. The study found out that HIV/AIDS is killing Black Americans at an alarming rate compared to other demographic group. Analysis show that although black people make up 12.3% of the American population about 50% of new HIV/AIDS contractors are black (U.S. centre for disease control 2005). A study then concluded that black women have an HIV/AIDS contraction rate of nineteen times higher than the white ones. This call for the need for continued emphasis on programs targeting females in racial or ethnic minority populations (Diagnoses of HIV, 2004, p. 1106).
The success in decreasing the number of new HIV/AIDS cases remains unattained although public relations professionals have responded to this HIV/AIDS crisis by creating and implementing health campaigns targeting black women. Black heterosexual females have continued to assume they are not at risk based on their identity although there have been multiple communication campaigns intended to overturn stereotypical views of HIV/AIDS and curb the high contraction rate. In the study Tiphane used black feminist epistemology to conduct a qualitative study to learn how black women make meaning of HIV/AIDS communication.
The study combines black feminist epistemology with situational theories of publics in an examination of black females’ meaning of HIV/AIDS communication to investigate certain issues. These include if and how black women seek information about HIV/AIDS, if they are conscious of communication about HIV/AIDS, how they make meaning of the information regarding HIV/AIDS and their reasons for compliance or non-compliance of the message they receive. The results could contribute to the development of health communication that positively impacts a traditionally marginalized population. Curry used a variety of concepts and theories that frame the research project.
The Black Feminist Approach was among one of them. Curry’s means of understanding reality or epistemology is black feminist. It influences how, why and `to what end curry researched black women (Lindlof and Taylor, 2002). Black feminist epistemology is about the collective struggle and experience of black women. The collective struggle is expressed through individual and group accounts of issues in multiple parts of the participants, and researchers’ identities are acknowledged. Then this knowledge is placed within the overall framework of one’s raced society to understand and fight against the normative. This approach is a qualitative perspective that requires an understanding of multiple meaning makings of the participant and so it is a useful framework for conducting this research. This perspective makes it possible for the participants to guide the research and combat the historical marginalization of the Black female identity in scholarship (Hill-Collins, 2000).
In the black feminism approach the researcher must analyze the institutions of racism to resist their impact in an interest to empower participants and solve problems of unrecognized oppressive structures. This research takes form in any medium from oral storytelling to traditional academic research. A purposeful sample of women who self-identify as black should be taken by the researcher. Some qualitative methods should be employed in the research alongside taking form in a dialogical exchange. Another theory was the situational theory of publics by Grunig. It predicts when people have decisive thoughts and communicate about a problem.
The theory outlines that the premise that publics’ attitudes toward an organization are dependent on the immediate situation. Grunig and Hunt (1984) identified three independent variables namely problem recognition which is the level of perception of a problem, constraint recognition, that is, levels of barriers to doing something about the problem and level of involvement which is personal relevance of an issue. They also identified two dependent variables, active information seeking and passive communication processing. The independent variables define four categories of publics. One is the all-issue public who are active on the problems, apathetic publics who pay no attention to the problems, single-issue publics who are selectively active and hot-issue publics who are active on a problem of wide spread attention.
The situational theory’s ability to predict communication and thoughts about an issue allows public relations practitioners to successfully manage their relationship with the public e=which in turn contributes positively to public relations practice. This theory fails to explain the process through which issues come to attention of a public although it allows for segmentation of publics and reliable prediction of attitudes and beliefs on an issue. Black women and HIV/AIDS communication was also another concept used in the study. Practitioners have failed despite the efforts aimed at lowering the rate of black female HIV/AIDS contraction. History inefficiency of health communication to influence Black women’s behavior has been connected to lack of insider research and poor strategic campaign planning (Sherman, Gielen, & McDonnell, 2000; Vitellone, 2002).
Different field such as psychology, sociology, communication, women’s studies and African-American studies can provide areas of research applicable to black women and HIV/AIDS communication. Identity politics and HIV/AIDS suggest that race and gender merge to create high constraint recognition, low level of involvement among black women about HIV/AIDS and low problem recognition. Black HIV/AIDS issue is disproportionately low compared to issue regarding sexually transmitted diseases and infections as indicated by ethnicity studies. The perception and propositions that condoms and prevention are necessary and specific to whiteness was attributed by Vitellone(2002). He again found that whiteness is performed and enacted in preventive campaigns. So as to have a better affect on other strategic publics, Vitellone proposed restructuring campaigns. Conspiracy and black health concept suggest that the social perspective of the blacks towards health institutions has been detrimental to their health prevention and treatment.
A suggestion by HIV/AIDS studies of blacks is suspicion of health institutions but it is yet to be explored and described. It was discovered by Brown and Brown’s that individuals with related identities are mostly affected by outreach campaigns. The research also suggests that there was a salient identity at work within the community although the identity factor connects the black community the traditional suspicion of out-group individuals and health communication (Brown & Brown, 2003). Curry looked at a number of research questions for a clear guideline. The questions were how do black women make meaning of campaigns targeting them about HIV/AIDS, what is the level of involvement for black women regarding HIV/AIDS campaigns, what characteristics affect black women’s problem recognition of HIV/AIDS as an issue and what constraints do black women perceive in engaging in the recommended actions portrayed in the HIV/AIDS campaign.
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During the data collection process Curry basically conducted in-depth individual interviews to understand women’s meaning-making process in relation to a health issue. Curry followed research design as proposed by Few, Stephens and Rouse-Arnett (2003) which upholds the participants’ voice as expert, attempts to create empowerment and tries to asses’ factors that influence participant experience. The approach was qualitative meaning it is open and can be explored through many methodologies that are sometimes referred to as ambiguous (Potter, 1996). In the interviews Curry requested the participants’ assesment of the issue of HIV/AIDS and their perceptions of media materials. It should be noted that this was the third design of study that Curry used the first being planning to conduct focus groups of 6 to 12 women (Grunig, 1990).
According to Grunig (1992) for groups can be of use in taboo topics like AIDS. In carrying out the focus groups Curry faced problems, that is, women said they were not comfortable discussing this sensitive topic in a focus group environment. The other problem was that women had work obligations or had to take care of their children and could not spare the time to coordinate their schedules. Secondly Curry attempted conducting smaller focus groups like dyads and triads. This also was not effective because participants said they were uncomfortable discussing this issue with friends since they feared judgment. The only option left was to conduct in-depth one-on-one interviews providing participants with materials from HIV/AIDS campaign that targeted young black females. This allowed the participants perspectives to guide the outcomes. To explore the meanings presented by the participants, Curry used grounded theory and was granted Institutional Review Board Approval then went ahead to follow the guidelines proposed by its tenets.
Each individual interview took an average of 45 minutes to conduct and the data came from at least 20 semi-structured in-depth interviews based on reaching the saturation point. The main focus of the interviews was the participants’ experiences and meaning-making of HIV/AIDS campaign. So as to limit the possibility for potentially ethically complicated communication with many participants, Curry used the semi-structured system of inquiry. The participants of the interview were recruited through purposive, snowball methods, that is, by requesting contact information from friends and colleagues. They were then selected based on their demographic background. The women who participated in this study were Black, heterosexual, between the ages of 18 and 37, with high school diplomas or higher.
A question guide was in place with open-ended questions and a pre-test was done with two black females who were master’s students. During the data analysis, all the interviews were digitally audio-taped and transcribed. Curry paraphrased transcript text when the discussion was not directly related to the research questions. The outcome of the interview of the 20 women interviewed was that they made meaning of HIV/AIDS communication in different ways. They based their meanings on concepts such as identity, personal relevance, stigma, activism, realism, fear, down-low phenomenon, and community.
General results show that the targeted message was received by the black women at different rates of frequency and the majority of them did not process messaging or seek information regarding HIV/AIDS. Majority found little useful information in the message because they felt they were aware with risk prevention. However this study has some limitations because of the recruitment of the participants. Due to time constraints and resources Curry was unable to interview Black women forming more varied economic backgrounds, regions, and nationalities.
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If Curry could have interviewed women from a larger range of backgrounds the external validity of the findings would be increased as the data would reflect more of the complexity of women’s realistic perspectives. Another demerit is that although women in the targeted risk group were recruited, only a few of the participants were in their 30s. Again the study focused on lower socioeconomic status women of which it could also include women from less wealthy socioeconomic backgrounds. This study may have also been limited by the targeted campaign materials chosen. Curry only selected three messages aired in the past three targeted messages from a campaign intended to target Black people.
To conclude, this research can be termed as effective though it may not be 100% perfect. It has been conducted by an educated researcher who has skills and knowledge on the research sector, that is, Tiphané P. Curry, Master of Arts, 2007 with help from Associate Professor, Dr. Linda Aldoory, from Department of Communication. This research also is beneficial for both health communication and public relations practitioners.
Although it is easy to concur with quantitative article published by Dexter Cooper and Barbara Powe on nursing research about cancer disease that suggests that African Americans continue to experience higher cancer incidence, this is due to the fact that, most of the African Americans have poor living standards thus they cannot afford to have the right diet, they also don’t have adequate knowledge about the causes of cancer thus they cannot be able to prevent themselves from getting affected. Most of them being unskilled and semiskilled, they cannot secure good and safe jobs, they end up working in production industries and some in nuclear reactors firms, where they are exposed to ultraviolet rays and radiations, which facilitates to cancer infections. But I disagree with them that about cancer experience and survival rates, since they compare African American with other racial and ethnic groups in United States.
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This is because they tend to show us that cancer disease, mostly affects the Africans Americans of which cancer, cannot chose whom to affect or not. All the Americans have equal chances of cancer infections since they are in the same environment that has high environmental pollution including air pollution that is caused by the industries. This has led to destruction of the ozone layer thus increasing the ultra violet rays.
All women cancer patients while kept under good treatment, may it be of breast, cervical or colorectal cancer they have equal chances of survival, therefore I disagree with them the fact that causian women have high survival rate compared to African American women. Cancer survival cannot be based on the racial groups since all women have equal chances of survival if well treated, this shows us that the causian women were treated earlier, hence their reason of them, having lower mortality rates. On the other hand African American women, lacked early treatment and upon noticing the disease it is too late.
Most of the African American women are not well educated, due to this, they are not exposed to very important information such as; diseases and this may have been the cause of them being affected more by cancer. If it was the same case with all women in the United States, then they would all be affected equally and this means that, it was not only the Africans American women who are much affected by cancer and higher mortality rates.
African American women incompetence in early screening and detection programs, is due to lack of enough resources compared to the causian women, thus if African American women had enough resources, they could have lesser number of cancer infections, this is because they could be able to go for screening regularly, and this would help them to note the disease earlier, and take early treatment. This is not the case with African American women, who only go to the hospital for check-ups, when it very late and there is no treatment which can be made to save their lives; hence the high mortality rates compared to their causian counterparts.
I will continue differing with Dexter and Barbara that African American women continue to experience higher cancer diseases, this is because cancer, being one of the inherited diseases, it will automatically be on a higher percentage to African Americans, this is because in the united state it is the African American populations that are bigger in number compared to the causian race and definitely it is expected that they will be affected more and have higher mortality rates from cancer.
Their study only targeted African American women who attended four FQHCs in a southern state, and this is not enough representative size of the African American women in the united states, the survey would have been accurate if it followed census method of data collection, so as to show the true reflection of the population of African American women infected, compared to the Caucasian, therefore sampling that they used was voluntary, thus it is not credible enough to be used to infer to the larger population.
If the census method was not possible, they would have used a random sampling method so that they can target the whole women population giving those equal chances of responding. so it cannot be concluded , that African American women are the ones who are most affected by cancer diseases, due to the fact that other races, including the causian, were not involved in their study. This depicts that if all the women, were involved in the study, then they could have come up with an accurate result, which would have shown that all women are affected by cancer equally. Most of the patients who attended the study were older than eighteen years old, this depicts that their study was not accurate since, if they could have done their study to women who were twenty years to zero, they could have noted the symptoms of cancer earlier, hence it could have been easy to curb cancer, hence reduce the mortality rates of the African American women.
Due to the financial stability of the larger population of causian women there is a possibility that they seek cancer treatment in private hospitals and sometimes most of them have family doctors who may be involved to keep the patient information confidential. This has led to inadequate and inaccurate statistical information about the number of women in united states who are infected by cancer. To them they have gathered information from the outpatient centers, thus this does not include, the patients who seek treatment elsewhere.
Their short comings are also depicted when they say that participants were selected randomly, participants represented a limited geographical area and it was not patent on how they attended the FQHC. It is also revealed that the medical reviews did not cover about former cancer screening between the patient and the health center the patient visited. This show that their argument of Africans Americans women being the ones who were the most pretentious to cancer was wrong, for them to be clear about this they could have searched for all the evidence.
The study was underestimated since it covered a fraction of women population in the United States, it focused on women above eighteen years thus undermining the infections that take place below eighteen years. This tried to portray that women below eighteen years, don’t have a risk of cancer disease infection. This is a total lie because the whole women population has equal chances of breast, cervical and colorectal cancer infections. This is because they are exposed to similar environmental and cursive agents, thus we cannot exclude women under the age of eighteen from infections. Further more women below eighteen years have a higher risk of cancer infection, since their body immune system is weak and developing hence their inclusion would have made a difference in the statistics and conclusion.
The statement that African American women have lower chances of survival is not clearly supported by the field study, since they did not consider the financial capability of the population in study. This should be considered since the survival depends on the type of treatment that the patient is put through and the number of visits that the patient pay to their doctor, for diagnosis and treatment, therefore it is clearly seen that the study was bias on the basis of ethnic lines. If it was genuine they would have put into consideration the classes of the cancer patients. If the African American women undergo quality cancer treatments they would have equal chances of survival. The genetic makeup of individuals determines the response to treatment and it is not scientifically proved that Africans have similar genetic makeup. The survival of cancer patients depend on their body’s defense mechanism rather than if they Africans or not .this study did not prove to us the causes of the African American women having poor chances of survival compared to the causing women .
The fact that the cancer patients were asked if they had a mammogram for the past five years, the information they may have gotten and recorded in the PDQ test would have been biased and inaccurate, since the question that the interviewer was asking was very directional and limited and most of African Americans, may not be conversant with some vocabularies as compared to causian women who are well informed. This depicts that they may have accured the wrong information about screening and treatment of the African American women. The mammography was limited to an average of thirty five years, thus excluding the larger population of both African American and causian women. Maybe in the larger population, that is the population above the average of thirty five years have lower chances of cancer survival, and this may be involving a very large percentage of causian women and therefore this would lead changes in the statistics on the conclusions. Their study was not objective rather it was subjective and full of stereotypic reasoning. This would have led to the wrong information resulting from the study.
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I tend to differ with the ideas in the article of Dexter and Barbara; this is through close scrutinizing through the information in the article. I have found the facts in the article not supportive enough to have the conclusion that African Americans have higher experience of cancer and African American women have low chances of survival from cancer. With reasons that I have put in the argument above I strongly believe that cancer infection is not selective on basis of racial or ethnic groups. If the African American women are given proper treatment of cancer, regular screening and checkups, enlighten about cancer symptoms and causes, they can have higher life expectancy and lower mortality rates due to cancer.