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Health Commun. 2012;27(1):19-29. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2011.567448. Epub 2011 Jun 14.

HIV/AIDS in Botswana: President Festus G. Mogae's narrative of secular conversion.

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Departmentof Communication, Purdue University, 100 N. University Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2098, USA.


Over the last decade, Botswana has been identified as a model for countries fighting against annihilation from HIV/AIDS. The country had the highest rate of HIV infections in the world in 2000, but by the end of Festus G. Mogae's presidential term in 2008 Botswana's situation had improved significantly, as residents were increasingly likely to get tested, obtain treatment, and discontinue practices of discrimination against the infected. This study seeks to contribute to a growing body of literature focusing on the communicative elements that played a role in Botswana's successes. More specifically, the purpose of this study is to explore Mogae's national speeches about HIV/AIDS to consider how his rhetoric may have encouraged Botswana's residents to alter their health-related beliefs and behaviors. We find that Mogae used a narrative of secular conversion (i.e., discourse with a pseudoreligious structure that positions problems as rooted in existing values and offers a new guiding principle as an antidote), and we identify such narratives as persuasive health communication tools. The analysis offers public health advocates, scholars, and opinion leaders a framework for persuasively communicating about diseases such as HIV/AIDS without drawing exclusively from a biomedical framework.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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