HIV and AIDS: Toward Increased Awareness and Understanding of Prevention and Education Research Using Meta-Analysis

Article excerpt

In 1997, Emmers-Sommer and Allen received the Central States Communication Association's Federation Prize Award to support research involving HIV and AIDS education and prevention. The monies received from the Federation Prize Award assisted in funding a number of meta-analytic literature summaries related to HIV and AIDS education and prevention. This essay provides an overview of the various projects undertaken so far with support provided by the Central States Communication Association Federation Prize Award. The projects only represent a series of first steps towards what the authors hope is the development of not only effective HIV education and prevention programs but the building of theoretical models for all public health campaigns.

The history of the motivation for this particular research effort comes from a situation encountered by the second author when teaching a graduate persuasion seminar. As part of the course he wanted to have the students read some meta-analyses that applied persuasion principles to a practical issue. An obvious topic of interest and importance would be the intense campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s dealing with HIV/AIDS education and prevention. Mike went to the library and using various electronic search engines (AIDSLINE, Psychlit, ERIC, SOCINFO) tried to find relevant meta-analyses on HIV/AIDS education and prevention. As of 1995, no meta-analysis (hit) was found in any of the indexes that dealt with the behavioral issues of HIV/AIDS infection. The lack of comprehensive/systematic/thorough summaries seemed remarkable since probably one of the most pressing health issues targeted by a massive effort by social scientists had not been compiled and analyzed to provide advice to those conducting interventions. Mike talked with Tara about the situation and the two of them decided to see about summarizing the research since they knew how to conduct meta-analyses and shared interest in persuasion (Emmers-Sommer & Allen, 1999a), sexuality (Allen, D'Alessio, & Emmers-Sommer, 1999; Allen, D'Alessio, Emmers, & Gebhardt, 1996; Allen, Emmers, Gebhardt, & Giery, 1995; Emmers-Sommer & Allen, 1999b), and interpersonal relationships (Allen, Bourhis, Emmers-Sommer, & Sahlstein, 1998). The combination of talent, experience, and interest seemed well suited to what promises to be a long and complex program of research. The Central States Federation Prize created a way to pay for the initial start of the process of photocopying and buying of research materials that a meta-analysis requires. The number of manuscripts available was massive (literally measured by the thousands) and would continue to grow in the next few years as more and more of the scientific community addressed the need to develop and evaluate the effectiveness of various interventions.

Anyone wishing a copy of the bibliographies (either hard and/or electronic) should write Dr. Allen (mikealle@uwm.edu) to obtain the material. The report in this essay represents a status report on the current sets of projects and the bibliography and files are constantly updated as projects are undertaken and mmaterial acquired. The database should expect to continue to grow as efforts, both domestically and internationally, expand to combat an infection that remains a significant problem for the world. The authors believe that the practical and theoretical contribution of communication scholars (of all types and methodologies) to these efforts points to the vitality and value of our discipline.

This paper provides an examination of four specific projects examining HIV, AIDS, and safer sexual behaviors. The first project examines relational partners' discussion of safer sex behaviors in relationships (Allen, Emmers-Sommer, & Crowell, in press). The second project involves individuals' learning of positive HIV test results and examines behavioral choices after learning of seropositivity (Allen, Bradford, Casey, & Emmers-Sommer, 2000). …