The aims of the study were to elicit the perceptions of young people in Tanzania on the role of fear appeals in HIV-prevention messages and to identify important contextual factors that may influence young people's perceptions of HIV-prevention posters. A total of 10 focus groups were conducted to investigate the role of fear appeals using the extended parallel process model (EPPM) as a guide. Young people were shown a series of images (mostly posters) with alternating high and low-threat messages (fear appeals), and then asked questions about their overall beliefs about HIV and AIDS, as well as about their response in terms of perceived susceptibility to HIV infection, the severity of the message, and their perceptions of self-efficacy and response efficacy. The images and messages that specifically targeted young people were highest in inducing perceived susceptibility to HIV infection, while pictorial descriptions of the physical consequences of HIV infection and those messages related to the stigma and discrimination faced by HIV-infected or affected people induced greater perceptions of severity. The information-based posters rated high in inducing response efficacy, while none of the images seemed to convince young people that they had the self-efficacy to perform the recommended health behaviours. The young people expressed a preference for fear-based appeals and a belief that this could work well in HIV-prevention efforts, yet they also stated a desire for more information-based messages about how to protect themselves. Finally, the messages evoking the most emotional responses were those that had been locally conceived rather than ones developed by large-scale donor-funded campaigns. Finding the appropriate balance between fear and efficacy in HIV-prevention messages is imperative. Further research is needed to better understand how and when fear appeals work and do not work in African settings, especially among young people.
African Journal of AIDS Research, Volume 10, Issue 4, 2011
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