Original Articles

The Value of Social Representations Theory in Understanding Perceptions Regarding HIV/AIDS

Published in: Journal of Psychology in Africa
Volume 18, issue 4, 2008 , pages: 591–596
DOI: 10.1080/14330237.2008.10820238
Author(s): Lynlee Howard-PayneaUniversity of the Witwatersrand,, Peace KiguwaUniversity of the Witwatersrand,


This study investigated the extent to which individuals experience ideologic strain from identifying with members in their in-group and its shared representation of HIV. 200 students from a large South African University completed a HIV Knowledge, Perceptions & Practices survey with open and closed items that were analysed using Thematic Content Analysis. The results from the HIV Knowledge, Perceptions & Practices survey in this cross-sectional study indicate that while the large majority of the participants know a great deal about HIV, this knowledge is highly impacted upon by the Social Representations that exist around this virus. The results highlight a widespread sense of personal invulnerability when faced with crises: the ‘not me’ dynamic in response to the negative Social Representations that surround this disease.

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