Written by Isabela CARAMLAU, Robin GOODWIN on . Posted in Special issue: Qualitative Research In Psychosocial Sciences, Guest Editor: Adriana BĂBAN, Volume XI, Nr. 2


The study aims to categorise and quantify the content of publicly available safer sex promotion leaflets in Romania, and to examine to what extent the content is reflected in young people�s social representations of HIV/AIDS. A content analysis identified 56 semantic categories, with high inter-coder reliability. A free association task and a semi-structured questionnaire were used to elicit participants� social representations of HIV/AIDS (N=186). Overall, the leaflets encouraged condom use, HIV testing and offered useful addresses for more information and professional assistance. Reflecting the traditionalism and religiosity of the country, the leaflets also promoted abstention before marriage and faithfulness, underlined the responsibility one should have not to infect the others, and drew attention on the dangers of sexual promiscuity and needle share. Findings from the content analysis of health promotion leaflets were largely corroborated by participants� social representations of HIV/AIDS. However, while safer sex promotion leaflets strongly promoted condom use, HIV testing, faithfulness and abstention, respondents stressed the fatality of AIDS and the emotional facet of the disease. They reported not seeing themselves at risk of becoming HIV infected, while certain �at-risk� groups were seen as main target for the disease. The findings suggest that while health promotion messages proved successful in conveying AIDS-related knowledge, they seem to fail influencing people�s perception of vulnerability.

KEYWORDS: HIV/AIDS, social representation, health promotion messages, content analysis.