Human Immunodeficiency Virus Information Seeking

Category: Culture
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Since the 1981, which is the first time human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was reported, an over abundance of information was wanting to be found. The early cases of HIV, which we now know progressively became worse and known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), led to panic, overall chaos, demonstrative rhetoric, and what seemed to be lack of information from everywhere. It seemed as those that should care, could careless. The lack of information and discussion contributed to millions of deaths across the globe. It especially affected the homosexual population within larger cities.

As time progressed and information became readily available through support groups, mailings, studies, clinics, hospitals, and word of mouth the virus became less and less destructive to communities and gay men in particular. Fast forward to today. The discussion of HIV and the perceived threat of HIV has decreased. That, in part, is due to the lack of it being a “death sentence,” but the rate of transmission and infection is still high. According to Tooley (2015) “Rates of HIV transmission among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) remain steady and account for one half of all estimated new HIV infections each year. While rates of transmission seem generally stable, the ways that gay and bi men meet and socialize are constantly evolving. In this context, service providers working in HIV prevention need to continually adapt their methods to meet the changing needs and realities of the populations they work with. This is particularly the case when it comes to technologies such as mobile phones and the Internet. These have quickly become a primary way for MSM – and younger MSM in particular, to meet other guys, find sex and seek sexual health information. In response, service providers are increasingly turning to eHealth interventions, delivered via the Internet and other technologies, to carry out HIV prevention efforts with MSM.”
This study has two goals. 1.) To identify specific ways gay men are finding information on HIV and 2.) Identify why gay men are using these sources for information on HIV. It also aims to combine the Health belief model and information seeking model into one that relates to gay men and HIV.

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Review of Literature

Health Information Seeking

As stated before, there is no known cure or vaccination for HIV, and gaining or acquiring information is extremely important to fight the spread of the disease. If the information about HIV and AIDS is far reaching people will be able to gain the information needed to change their behavioral response to this continuing epidemic.

While the study of information seeking theory is relatively new (Wilson, 1981), it is complex and crosses many disciplines, most notably Information Science and Communications (Dervin, 2005). Information science deals with the studying of the phenomenon of information, and the reasons why individuals seek and use that particular information. Each instance varies. For instance, I would not gather information the same way about my health, as I would my friends or coworkers. There is separate motivation and different tactics within the information seeking process.

Information Science is concerned with studying the phenomena of information, including the behaviors of people who seek and use information. Communications is concerned with the transmission of information, particularly in educational campaigns. Together, they work well, to further our understanding of the ways in which information can affect behavior change and its possible limitations. Information Science and Communications, however, are two separate disciplines and have only recently begun to work together in approaching the role of information in behaviour change.

Information science investigates the relationship between users and information in terms of information behaviour and information seeking behaviour. Wilson (2000) defines the two terms:

Information Behavior is the totality of human behavior in relation to sources and channels of information, including both active and passive information seeking, and information use. Thus, it includes face-to-face communication with others, as well as the passive reception of information as in, for example, watching TV advertisements, without any intention to act on the information given.

Information Seeking Behaviour is the purposive seeking for information as a consequence of a need to satisfy some goal. In the course of seeking, the individual may interact with manual information systems (such as a newspaper or a library), or with computer-based systems (such as the World Wide Web) (49).

The field of Information Science spent many years focused on the role of systems in information behaviour (Wilson, 2000). It has broadened its research approaches over the last twenty years, moving from an information-as-thing perspective (Buckland, 1991), to the view that information as a theoretical object is at once both physical and cognitive (Raber, 2003). As we move towards a perspective that focuses increasingly on the user, questions are raised about the world of the user, the cognitive processes involved in information-seeking, and the processes the user goes through in order to find relevant information. Kuhlthau (1994), Ellis, Cox, et al. (1993), and Dervin (1983), among many others, have contributed to our understanding of the characteristics of users and user behaviour. More recently, the work in LIS has moved to include issues of affect that also influence information behaviour (Nahl, 2005).

While information seeking research has focused on the characteristics of users, the impact of retrieved information has received a surprising lack of investigation. The problem is that research on information seeking behaviour is inadequate unless it takes into consideration the use of that information. Without understanding the effects of information on users and their behaviour, we have an incomplete picture of how information changes behaviour, which is of primary concern in healthcare information in general, and for HIV/AIDS specifically. The more we understand about the relationship between information and use, the more we can increase the likelihood of providing better information that is more carefully targeted to decrease the likelihood of spreading HIV/AIDS. Therefore, it is important to not only understand the specific characteristics of the user but also understand how it could possibly affect their behaviour. The answers to these questions will affect the way in which information is selected and presented and the possible affect it will have on users and their behaviour.
Information Science, however, can draw from a range of other disciplines and theories, most notably psychology and communications, in order to address these questions. By converging multidisciplinary theories it is possible to generate new ideas and theoretical collaborations that will illuminate our understanding of the relationship between health information and communications and behaviour change.

HBTs can be divided into categories including explanatory theories and change theories. Explanatory theories are those theories that address why a certain problem exists, and investigates the underlying variables that contribute to the problem (National Cancer Institute, 2005). Examples of explanatory behaviour change theories include the Health Belief Model, the Theory of Planned Behaviour, and the Precaution Adoption Process Model.

Change theories advance the development of health interventions by identifying important concepts that can be incorporated into information and communication messages and strategies (e.g., IEC). Change theories also provide a framework for evaluation of interventions. A benefit of change theories is that they inherently require an identification and analysis of assumptions prior to the design and implementation of any intervention programs. Diffusion of Innovations and Community Organization are two examples of change theories.

HBTs can also be grouped according to their characteristics. Message-based theories are those that investigate how individuals or audiences respond to messages. Fear based models, for example, are designed to elicit change through invoking fear responses. Belief-based theories are those that examine the sets of beliefs and perceptions of individuals about health. If an individual perceives that changing their behaviour will result in an improvement in health, then they are more likely to make that change. Intervention-based theories focus on behaviour change by way of prevention.

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus Information Seeking. (2021, Apr 26). Retrieved from