Baah-Odoom, Dinah (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
The social representation approach to understanding HIV/AIDS focuses on the ideas about the disease that are current in a society. A major claim arising from this approach is that blaming others for the spread of the disease allows individuals within the mainstream society to feel relatively safe from the disease, and so they do not take sufficient steps to protect themselves against the disease. This hypothesis was tested in three questionnaire studies involving two samples of young people from Ghana (N=460 and N=238) and one from the U.K. (N=221). Blaming others was measured in terms of beliefs about the origins of HIV/AIDS; blaming attitudes towards specific marginal groups within society; and stigmatizing attitudes towards those with the disease. The results of these studies provided some evidence in support of the hypothesis in relation to stigma (but not the other blaming variables). In both studies, there was a significant association between greater stigmatizing attitudes and reduced intentions to practice safe sex; and this relationship was mediated by reduced perceptions of vulnerability to the disease. Stigmatizing attitudes made a significant unique contribution to the variance in sexual intentions over and above the contribution of variables derived from the theory of planned behaviour and the health belief model. A large percentage of the Ghana samples showed negative attitudes towards condom use and stigmatizing attitudes towards those with HIV/AIDS, indicating a need for social policy to address these issues.
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