Myths, science and stories: working with peer educators to counter HIV/AIDS myths

  • David Dickinson


The failure to bring about widespread or effective behavioural change in response to South Africa’s HIV epidemic requires that new forms of health communication be explored. This article reports on an action research project in which a group of workplace HIV/AIDS peer educators at a South African mining company recorded HIV/AIDS myths that they encountered, around which they then developed stories as an alternative response to repeating factual, scientific messages, which seem to have little effect on target populations. A total of 16 stories were developed during the project. Some of the peer educators appeared to be much better at using stories within their activities than others. In part, this was a reflection of the enthusiasm and abilities of individual peer educators. It was also observed that the stories were used to respond to situations that were sometimes quite different from the original stimulus for the story. The complex range of skills that allows an individual to introduce and effectively use a story in day-to-day conversation should not be underestimated. The article suggests that rather than repeating the project’s focus on developing stories tailored to specific HIV/AIDS myths, a more effective approach could be to develop stories that support core messages for facilitating HIV prevention, testing and treatment.

Keywords: action research, communication, health education, HIV/AIDS education, peer education, South Africa, storytelling, workplace

African Journal of AIDS Research 2011, 10(supplement): 335–344

Author Biography

David Dickinson
University of the Witwatersrand, Department of Sociology, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1608-5906
print ISSN: 1727-9445