Media coverage and HIV/AIDS knowledge gaps in Uganda
Wendo, Charles Lwanga
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Since the late 1980s, various key players have used the media and other means to educate the Ugandan population about HIV/AIDS. However, little is known about the knowledge disparities within the population and the role of the media in these disparities. This study used the knowledge gap framework to evaluate how knowledge levels and knowledge disparities vary with the respondents’ media use and the amounts of media publicity given to different HIV/AIDS topics. It combined quantitative newspaper content analysis with secondary analysis of the Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey (UAIS) 2011 data. Linear regression analysis showed that level of education was the strongest predictor of knowledge about HIV/AIDS, followed by listening to radio, sex of the respondent, watching television and reading newspapers. However, there was no significant association between location (rural vs. urban) and respondents’ level of knowledge about HIV/AIDS. Generally, respondents were more knowledgeable about topics that received more media coverage. Higher frequencies of media use were associated with higher knowledge scores. The results confirm presence of HIV/AIDS knowledge disparities between people of low and high education. However, higher media publicity was not associated with wider knowledge disparities. Thus the findings support some aspects but do not concur with the main thrust of the knowledge gap hypothesis, namely that knowledge disparities would be wider for topics that receive more media publicity. The results imply that the mass media remain an important way of increasing knowledge about HIV/AIDS in society. However, the observed knowledge disparities need to be addressed by using additional communication channels and innovative approaches to reach the knowledge-deficient segments of society. Additionally, these findings lend credence to the argument that the knowledge gap hypothesis may not hold true for life-threatening issues of general public concern such as HIV/AIDS. It also challenges the suggestion that in Africa rural-urban knowledge differences may be more significant than education-based knowledge disparities. Finally, the findings provide a basis for further studies on whether the observed knowledge disparities translate into differences in attitude, behaviour and HIV prevalence.