Print media reporting of male circumcision for preventing HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa
Alberta L Wang, William Duke & George P Schmid
To review the types, content and accuracy of print media reports on male circumcision for preventing HIV infection among men in sub-Saharan Africa.
We conducted a trilingual search (English, French, Portuguese) of LexisNexis® with the phrase “male circumcision” for the period from 28 March 2007 to 30 June 2008. The articles identified were screened for the central theme of male circumcision for preventing HIV infection in men in sub-Saharan Africa and for publication types targeting lay audiences – newspapers, magazines, newswires or newsletters. We judged the accuracy of the reports and determined the context, public perceptions, misconceptions and areas of missing information in the print media. We also explored whether the media could be better used to maximize the impact of male circumcision.
We identified 412 articles, of which 219 were unique and 193 were repeats. “Peaks and valleys” occurred in the volume of articles over time. Most articles (56.0%) presented male circumcision for the prevention of HIV infection in a positive light. Those that portrayed it negatively had an overall repeat rate 2.9 times higher than positive articles. Public health messages formulated by international health agencies were few but generally accurate.
The accuracy of the reports was good, although the articles were few and frequently omitted important messages. This suggests that public health authorities must help the media understand important issues. A communication strategy to sequence important themes as male circumcision programmes are scaled up would allow strategic coverage of accurate messages over time.