Saturday, February 28, 2009


An Analysis of how Limpopo Women in Elim Negotiate Meaning of HIV/AIDS Television Advertisements.

Elim is an area in the Limpopo province, 25 km east of Louis Trichardt and 125 km away from Polokwane. It has divers’ cultural groups, which are Vhavenda, and Tsonga. Elim is in Vhembe District which has the highest population in Limpopo province with estimated 1.3 million people (Vhembe District Municipality 2008:1). Elim encompasses areas like Mpheni, Watervaal, and sherly.

HIV/AIDS pandemic is a global health problem. South Africa is regarded as having the most severe HIV epidemic in the world (UNIAIDS, 2008:8). UNAIDS (2008:8) Global Report, estimated that 5.2 million South Africans were living with HIV at the end of 2007 compared to 5.4 million of 2006. Although the prevalence rates have begun to stabilize, the epidemic has already had a profound impact on many aspects of South African society. Moreover its effects on the country’s demographic structure and its economic, education, and health sectors will be worsened if more is not done to stem its tide. (UNAIDS, South Africa, 2007:5).

HIV/AIDS Prevalence differs across the country and among different segments of the population. The sentinel surveys annually carried out by the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) since date shows that in 2007 Limpopo has 20.7 million of HIV/AIDS prevalence. In the year 2006 total number of 53 815 deaths were estimated, and of these death number, 26 404 (50.9%) were females and slightly more, 27 410 (49.1%) were males (Limpopo Department of Health: 2007 11). Furthermore Young South Africans are highly vulnerable to human immuno deficiency virus (HIV) transmission. (Fatima Hassan in Department of Health, 2006:17).

Women are the most infected and affected. Almost 61% of adults living with HIV in 2007 were women (UNIAIDS, 2007:8). Women are infected at higher rates owing to biological as well as social cultural practices (e.g. women’s low social status, culturally accepted inheritance discourses of widows and widowers, traditional and religious beliefs, polygamy and traditional healers’ discourses) that inhibit women’s control over their bodies (UN, 2004:6). The HIV/ AIDS prevalence continues to increase especially among women, thus, posing challenges to both prevention and treatment efforts. (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2008:45)

In South Africa It is estimated that 75% of the population has access to television (Nancy Coulson, 2006:1). South Africa has TV, radio programmes and mass media advertising that talk about HIV/AIDS prevention, for example Love live. There are condoms in South Africa, but condom use is still very low. (National Department of Health, 2006:15)

The impact of HIV/AIDS messages on target audiences has been the subject of studies by several media theorist (e.g. studies by Philo, 1993: 154; Kitzinger, 1993:202 and Kelly, 2000:190; Hungwe, 2006). According to Hungwe, (2006:85) the influence of religious practices in shaping the meanings also arose in the discussion of condoms. Women incorporate their religious beliefs into their sexual practices and rejected messages that advocate condom use. Nonhlanhla (2001:239) argues that South African women are at high risk of HIV/AIDS epidemic due to an apparent gap between awareness and practice.

Gender inequality is the major reason for women’s increased vulnerability to HIV infection. They suffer discrimination, deprivation and exclusion simply because of their gender. Thus, women are less able than men to exercise control over their bodies and their lives and have little, if any influence over their partners’ sexual behavior. (Mehta, 2006: 318).

The data collected shows that the samples of 68.2 percent of women in Elim have gone to school, where as 31.8 percent of the women have never gone to school. On the 68.2 percent of women who have gone to school, include only 8.7 percent who have attended tertiary, 40.4 percent attended primary school and 19.1 percent attended high school. It was then deduced that majority of Elim women are educated, but they have not furthered their studies. Most of them have gone to school so that they can be able to write their name. So it is difficult for them to interpret the meanings that HIV/AIDS prevention messages promulgate, as encoders prefer.

89.4 percent of women in Elim have access to television. This really shows that that majority of the women in Elim are exposed to the HIV/AIDS prevention messages. While on the issues of love relationships, the sample of 89.4 percent of Elim women are in love relationships, and only10.6 percent are not in love relationships. 42.5 percent of women are involved in polygamous and unfaithful relationships. And the majority of women which is 57.5 percent say they are not in polygamous relationship. Though the researcher deduced that Elim woman are still at high risk looking at the number of women who are in polygamous relationships. The research also discovered that only 17.0 percent of women use condom.

The majorityof women 57.4 percent in Elim believes in protestant (Christianity, etc), while 40.4 percent believes in African Tradition and only 2.1 percent in Roman Catholic.

Research by Muleya Tshimagadzo
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