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African-American blogs offer key health communications tool
Date:10/2/2008

Blogs allow African Americans to discuss HIV and AIDS in an unfiltered way that is both public and private, according to a Penn State researcher, and this exploration may lead to another way to distribute health messages to the African American community.

Lynette Kvasny, associate professor of information sciences and technology (IST), an avid blog reader, noticed an interesting conversation on a blog following an August 2006 ABC News story, "Out of Control: AIDS in Black America."

"I was really surprised by some of the things I was reading these were things that I'd never seen discussed in a public forum before," Kvasny said.

Kvasny and C. Frank Igwe, a recent IST Ph.D. recipient, analyzed 128 responses to the ABC News story posted from Aug. 24 to Aug. 26, 2006. They separated the comments into themes, including ineffective Black community leadership; the influence of prison and hip-hop cultures; religion; sexual taboos; and African Americans in the media. These categories provided a basis to analyze how ethnic identities are conveyed through technology.

The television show pointed to five reasons why AIDS is out of control in Black America, including, those in charge do not see the problem; the government fails to control street drugs and the large African American prison population; the skewed ratio of men to women in the African American community lead to multiple partners for men; a hidden African American homosexual population on the "down low;" and the failure of leadership in the Black community to make AIDS a priority.

"Online conversations provide an opportunity to examine how this community uses language to express their unique position as subjects in HIV/AIDS discourse," the researchers note in "An African-American Weblog Community's Reading of AIDS in Black America," published recently in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. "The relationships among identity, language and computer mediated communication are not
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Contact: A'ndrea Elyse Messer
aem1@psu.edu
814-865-9481
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert

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