Despite significant progress in the prevention and treatment of HIV, disparities in rates of infection remain among key groups in the United States, including blacks and African Americans; Hispanics/Latinos; and men who have sex with men (MSM). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ initiative, Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, calls for addressing HIV-related disparities and reducing stigma and discrimination associated with HIV. The goal of this literature review was to identify approaches for effectively communicating about health disparities across the HIV care continuum. We reviewed the literature to investigate strategies used to communicate health disparities and to identify potential unintended adverse effects resulting from this messaging. Messages about health disparities often target subgroups at higher risk and can be framed in a variety of ways (e.g., social comparison, progress, impact, etiological). Studies have examined the effects of message framing on the risk perceptions, emotional reactions, and behaviors of individuals exposed to the messaging. The evidence points to several potential unintended adverse effects of using social comparison framing and individual responsibility framing to communicate about health disparities, and visual images and exemplars to target messages to higher-risk subgroups. There is not yet a clear evidence-based approach for communicating about health disparities and avoiding potential unintended effects. However, we offer recommendations for communicating about HIV-related disparities based on our findings. Because we found limited literature that addressed our research questions in the context of HIV, we propose a research agenda to build an evidence base for developing effective messages about HIV-related disparities.
Effectively communicating about HIV and other health disparities
Findings from a literature review and future directions
Peinado, S. C., Treiman, K. A., Uhrig, J. D., Coleman Taylor, J., & Stryker, J. E. (2020). Effectively communicating about HIV and other health disparities: Findings from a literature review and future directions. Frontiers in Communication, 5. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcomm.2020.539174