HIV, media, stigma, discourse analysis, health policy, sexual health, social care
In addition to shaping public opinion, media driven discourses on health related issues often play a constitutive role in agenda setting to the extent in which certain perspectives on a problem are reified and appropriate responses accordingly formulated to address the issue (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). Against a backdrop of unprecedented increases in new HIV diagnoses in Ireland, this paper will look at how the domestic HIV epidemic is framed in the Irish print media.
Using the LexisNexis database 60 articles of 500 words or more published between 2005 and 2015 from both main broadsheets, the Irish Times and the Irish Independent were gathered. Articles dealing specifically with the domestic HIV epidemic were analysed using a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) framework (Fairclough, 2003).
In framing the nature of the domestic HIV epidemic a dominant discourse of “responsibilisation” was identified. Under this discourse individual ‘complacency’ was cited as a main driving factor of the epidemic to the exclusion of any critique of existing services or structural factors, including inconsistent and sub-par sexual health education for young people.
A combination approach including biomedical, behavioural and structural interventions is considered best practice internationally to addressing the HIV epidemic. In order to address the burgeoning crisis in sexual health in this country structural reform of services, increased opportunities for testing and improvement of sexual health education programmes for young people must occur.