Social Marketing Strategies for Combating HIV/AIDS in Rural and/or Disadvantaged Communities in Mexico, Uganda, and the United States

  • Ruth Massingill

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


With more than 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and an infection rate that is increasing rather than falling among high-risk groups, the 30-year history of the AIDS epidemic has been characterised as ‘islands of success in a sea of failure.’ Given the lack of a medical cure for the disease, the world has looked to social marketing campaigns to promote behaviour change that would decrease infection rates. Under the best of circumstances, change is difficult, and health behaviour change, especially when it relates to sex and politics, is even more challenging, so social marketers have a difficult task that calls on every technique at their disposal. There is an increasing expectation that HIV/AIDS social marketing interventions will yield measurable results, and that involves fully understanding the AIDS landscape, marketing theory and practice, and the evolving medical picture relating to the pandemic. This research explores links between social marketing and HIV/AIDS while mapping their marketing connections to both the conventional and alternative medical communities. To better understand the HIV/AIDS landscape, early research focused on three diverse countries— Mexico, Uganda, and the United States—selected for their significant cultural, economic, and political differences. Given the multiple social perspectives and fields of knowledge involved in this project, a transdisciplinary approach using mixed research methods was selected. Mixed methods for collecting and presenting data included case studies, content analysis, semistructured interviews, a quantitative survey, and in-depth reaction interviews. Through analysis of 18 social marketing campaigns in the three countries selected for study, the content, focus, purpose, and implications of the controlled public dissemination of HIV/AIDS information were examined. Key informants with professional and academic credentials in the areas of marketing, advocacy, and HIV/AIDS medicine were interviewed to learn rationales behind the campaigns and to explore political and economic factors that affect HIV/AIDS health activism. The last major phase of information gathering surveyed more than 340 patients at a clinic in Houston, Texas, to ascertain their knowledge and perceptions about HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention information. After the survey data was compiled, reaction interviews from key informants provided additional input. Informed by this wealth of secondary and primary research, an Integrated Social Marketing Conversation (Marcon) Model was created to demonstrate that social marketing campaigns should be localised and customer centred, with participants engaging in an ongoing conversation at every stage. The communication model offers valuable guidelines for more effective dissemination of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment information to high-risk, high-interest target audiences such as HIV-positive people and the organisations that work with that subculture. Because this research crosses so many boundaries and addresses an actual need, it should be of interest to a wide variety of individuals and organisations in both academic and professional fields. From marketers to medical practitioners to activists associated with HIV/AIDS issues, this project’s findings will apply to their concerns. Also, HIV/AIDS organisations — both government agencies as well as private groups — should find information in this work that addresses their ongoing efforts. While investigating existing models for HIV/AIDS communication, it became evident that most research and communication models have focused on how HIV/AIDS prevention programmes are working and what is effective, but little has been done in regards to treatment options and information. For that reason, the integrated social marcon model presented in this thesis is an important addition to the body of practical literature on this topic. Finally, the volatility of the issues examined here and the contacts made during five years of work offer multiple possibilities for follow-up research and fieldwork with opportunities to make a positive contribution in the battle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Date of Award1 Apr 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorTerry Robinson (Supervisor) & Helen Bussell (Supervisor)

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