Information Vaccine: Using Graphic Novels as an HIV/AIDS Prevention Resource for Young Adults

By Albright, Kendra S.; Gavigan, Karen | Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, April 2014 | Go to article overview

Information Vaccine: Using Graphic Novels as an HIV/AIDS Prevention Resource for Young Adults


Albright, Kendra S., Gavigan, Karen, Journal of Education for Library and Information Science


Problem Statement and Literature Review

Although breakthroughs in HIV/AIDS prevention have been made in recent years, it is still a deadly disease. Over 10,129 young people in the U.S. have died from AIDS (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, n.d.).

Of all new HIV infections in 2006, 34% were among youth, ages 13-24. By the end of 2006, nearly 56,500 youth were living with HIV infection or AIDS. In 2009, young persons accounted for 39% of all new HIV infections in the US. For comparison's sake, persons aged 15-29 comprised 21% of the US population in 2010. In 2009, young African Americans counted for 65% (5,404) of diagnoses of HIV infection reported among persons aged 13-24 years (Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 2011).

South Carolina has one of the highest incidence rates for HIV/AIDS in the United States (Figure 1). In South Carolina the primary at-risk population for HIV/AIDS is African-American teens, particularly young men. Eighty percent of 15 to 24 year-olds who are newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in South Carolina are AfricanAmerican (South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, 2010). The rate of reported new HIV/AIDS cases among African-American South Carolinians is eight times that of Whites (Carolina Teen Health, 2012). As a result, education and prevention efforts are needed to raise young adults' awareness of HIV/ AIDS issues. Unfortunately, many young people are not concerned about becoming infected with HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2000). Further, prevention campaigns are not usually targeted to a specific, local community; rather, they are often designed in a more generic format and fall short of their intended prevention efforts (Albright, 2007). Albright (2007) identified important components of successful HIV/AIDS prevention programs in Sub-Saharan Africa that were integrated into the current study. She identified the following components of successful campaigns that have been adapted to this study:

1. Materials should be designed specifically for the target audience within their particular culture. They need to be available in the language of the target population. The researchers believe the graphic novel should be written in the vernacular of the target population for the study: Columbia youth, aged 15-19, many of whom will be in the higher risk, African-American population.

2. Because of the high degree of illiteracy in South Carolina, materials need to be available in a format that includes visual images as well as text.

3. Because of the collectivist culture of the target population, information is likely to be shared in common spaces (e.g. public and school libraries, community centers, schools, churches). The graphic novel should be made available in those places.

4. Peer education appears to be a common and effective approach for disseminating HIV/AIDS information. Thus, the target population should be included in the development and modification of the materials, word-of-mouth and sharing of information will be enhanced via peer networks.

5. The use of fiction is helpful for making HIV/AIDS information more interesting and appealing, particularly for youth, with a storyline and corresponding visual images.

Successful prevention campaigns also take into account the use of appropriate messages targeted to the specific population in an authentic, accessible format (Albright, Kawooya, & Hoff, 2006). Although much of the existing HIV/AIDS prevention information for young people is accurate, it is often not readily available, nor presented in a format such as graphic novels that they find appealing. Further, due to the large influence of media and advertising, today's young people are very visual and multimedia learners. As Flynt and Brozo (2010) suggest, "Visual culture is a constant in students' daily lives." (p. 526). Young adults are more inclined to read and retain information if it is in an engaging format such as graphic novels that is popular with their generation (Gavigan, 2012). …

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