Health communication in South Africa – evaluating audiocassettes as a medium to communicate HIV/AIDS information
Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria - South Africa
Professor, Department of Information Science, University of Pretoria - South Africa
For South African people to make informed choices about their health and related behaviour, they must have access to information. Illiteracy is a marginalizing factor and can be seen as one of the biggest barriers to access health information in South Africa.
Melkote (1991:218) argues that in Africa the “pro-literacy bias has acted as a major constraint to the diffusion of information to pre-literate audiences …which forms the bulk of the population in rural areas”. Made (1994:32) also points out that there has, in the dissemination of information in Africa, been an over-reliance on the printed word. In their book The quiet struggle: information and libraries for the people of Africa, Sturges and Neill (1998:121) explicitly address the problem of the format of information delivery in Africa. They state that “it is absolutely clear that the delivery method employed by any innovative information service…must be essentially oral”. Leach (1999:79) states “as audiocassettes do not require so phisticated technology or literacy skills, the use of this medium should be investigated within the rural South African context”.
In this paper audiocassettes are proposed as an alternative medium to printed brochures in the dissemination of information on HIV/AIDS to the general South African public.
Research was conducted at four Community Health Centres in the greater Pretoria environment in which brochures of the Department of Health were evaluated in terms of their efficiency. Audiocassettes containing the same information were tested to determine their acceptability and efficiency. Preliminary findings of research conducted in this regard will be presented.
This paper proposes the use of audiocassettes as complementary to existing campaigns consisting of print and other media. The provision of audiocassettes as alternative medium will not only be to the advantage of the illiterate, but also the visually impaired.