stigma; HIV prevention; Black young adults


Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Health Psychology | Public Health


The extent to which the targeted group attends to and is engaged by HIV/STI prevention messages is one component of effective health communication. Through an empirical examination of the cumulative perceptions of HIV/STI prevention media messages targeted to Black youth and young adults, this qualitative study privileges the voices of Black/ African American young adults as a group that is frequently targeted in HIV prevention campaigns. Semi-structured interviews with 23 Black/African American young adults yielded key themes that suggest barriers to effective health communication. Traditionally, health promotion has advocated for targeted messages as a means to increase risk perception and promote behavior change. For some study participants, the unintended consequences of this approach with HIV prevention included a perception that cumulatively media messages (1) portrayed HIV as a “Black disease; (2) blamed Black people for the HIV epidemic; and (3) fostered negative judgments about Black people. Participants described mixed feelings because they perceived that the messages simultaneously increased awareness for HIV prevention in the Black community as well as perpetuated stigma of the Black community. The findings challenge existing notions about targeting health communication particularly when focusing on stigmatized illnesses.