An alternate hiv preventive strategies sex scripts in social media for women of color
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An Alternate HIV preventive strategies: Sex scripts in social media for women of color . Catherine Medina, Ph.D , M. Phil, LCSW University of Connecticut School of Social Work Director- Puerto Rican/Latino Studies Project Social Work Social Development 2012: Action and Impact July 11, 2012.

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An Alternate HIV preventive strategies: Sex scripts in social media for women of color

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An alternate hiv preventive strategies sex scripts in social media for women of color

An Alternate HIV preventive strategies: Sex scripts in social media for women of color

Catherine Medina, Ph.D, M. Phil, LCSW

University of Connecticut

School of Social Work

Director- Puerto Rican/Latino Studies Project

Social Work Social Development 2012: Action and Impact

July 11, 2012

Purpose of presentation

Purpose of Presentation

  • To explore Entertainment-Education perspective as a media strategy to engage women of color in HIV/AIDS prevention behaviors.

  • To construct cultural alternatives to mainstream social norms in the sexual arena (Barker & Sabido).

  • Illustration of a Telenovela (soap operas) that was narrated by a research participant in Project Connect, NYC.

  • Telenovelas can be used as a public communication tool for social change, and be designed to communicate culturally relevant HIV risk reduction themes to large audiences.

The role of media

The role of media

  • Research shows that popular media messages and images constitute powerful social, cultural and political forces, and that there is a link between media output and social conscious.

  • Media is one of the factors that influence the public about sexual attitudes and behaviors through its repetitive messaging about explicit sexual content in daytime and primetime dramas, such as telenovelas.

  • Sex is a prominent topic in popular media, the industry often does not adequately cover sexual risks and sexual responsibility to promote sexual health.

Sabido methodology entertainment education

Sabido methodology: Entertainment-education

  • Entertainment-education is the process of purposely designing and implementing a media message to both entertain and educate. The first two subplots of the telenovelas are designed to entertain and capture the audience attention through the use of emotionally and intensive material portraying everyday realities. The third subplot of the storyline contains the social content and educational message. It is used to increase audience members’ knowledge about an educational issue, create favorable attitudes, shift social norms, and change overt behavior (Barker & Sabido; Nairman, 1993; Singhal & Rogers, 2002).

Media literacy

Media literacy

  • HIV prevention media strategy can focus on sexual talk (talking about present or past sexual activity) and/or sexual behavior (sexual intimacy, intimate touching and kissing) with health promotion messages woven into familiar, emotion-laden contemporary melodrama such as using condoms in the heat of the moment. The corporate responsibility is to give the sexual messaging covering risks and responsibilities.

Media literacy continued

Media literacy continued

  • Telenovelas- sex scripts, as an entertainment-education vehicle, can portray an alternative way for men, women, and communities of color to communicate about sexual health and HIV/AIDS by focusing on speaking openly, acting with respect, and getting involved in the challenge of sustained HIV/AIDS prevention.

  • Telenovelas storylines can facilitate sexual talk and sexual behavior dialogue in diverse communities which are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Popular media creating sex script with the hope for a hiv free future in communities of color

Popular Media: Creating Sex Script with the Hope for a HIV-Free Future in Communities of Color

  • Because telenovelas dramatize compelling stories based on the daily lives of a group of characters with whom an audience can easily engage and identify, health professionals advocate that they be designed to communicate HIV risk reduction themes (Jones, 2008).

  • Keys to the effectiveness of the telenovelas to engage audiences are emotion, identification and involvement in the storyline.

  • The audience is captivated through intense, melodramatic emotional tone.

  • Many individuals faithfully follow the telenovelas characters. They feel that their own stories, realities, and experiences are being played out. Viewers identify with lead characters, which can motivate them to make meaningful behavior changes. Telenovelas spark parasocial interactions, forming relationships between a viewer and a fictional character or prompting viewers to talk to the television (Papa et al., 2000).

Sex scripts and power theory

sex scripts and power theory

  • Some women’s concern about HIV risk is undermined by their relational needs and desire for emotional closeness in heterosexual relationships (Bell et al., 2007, Sobo, 1995). Such needs include commitment to the relationship, trust, and barrier-free intimacy (Diekman et al., 2000, Jones, 2006b).

  • Within different social contexts, young women and men often view unprotected sex as necessary to secure and maintain the coupling relationship (Bowleg et al., 2004; Jones, 2006b, Jones and Oliver, 2007). The literature verifies the need for emotional closeness in heterosexual relationships as one of the most important challenges in reducing HIV risk (Bell et al., 2007; Sobo, 1995; Diekman et al., 2000; Fromme et al., Jones, 2006; Medina & Rios, 2010).

Telenovelas and self power

Telenovelas and self power

  • The characters actualize self power through the following four dimensions:

  • Knowing and being aware of their value as women

  • Having awareness of their choices, and making their choices intentionally

  • Feeling free to pursue their choices

  • Knowing their role in making their choices happen

    (Barrett, 1998; Caroselli and Barrett 1998; Jones, 2008, p.877).

Sex script context

Sex script context

Ariel is a Latina woman (age 33). Her brother, Jimmy is at Ariel’s home, picking up Ariel’s two daughters and their elderly diabetic mother to spend the night with him and his family. They leave only after a great deal of discussion and family interactions about what the mother cannot eat and the expectations that the girls behave well at Jimmy’s house. In solitude, Ariel feels some relief, but is somewhat lonely. She tries to convince herself that she needs this time alone. After all, she has been busy with work, and taking care of her two girls and mother, but it is strange to be home alone. She decides to phone friends when someone knocks on the door. Ariel thinks it must be one of her girls who forgot something, but instead it is her former partner, Marc Anthony (age 35). About a month earlier, he had disappeared and never returned her calls. Her friends on the block told Ariel that he was seeing someone else, adding, “who knows who else he may be seeing”.

Sex script illustration

Sex script illustration

Marc Anthony, appearing very handsome, starts the conversation with sexual talk:

I ran into your brother, Jimmy. He told me I should come by to see you. Baby, I missed you. I have been busy, but now I am here. It’s just you, me and this bottle of wine. You are looking so fine (a seductive smile).

(After more sexual talk about sensation seeking, and some sexual behavior [kissing, moving towards the bedroom]), Ariel looks at him passionately and says:

Baby, I missed you too. But remember honey this body is my house. It protects my soul [spiritual dimension] for my children and family. I control it (she waves a condom which she kept in the night table). I am serious. We got to protect each other.

Marc Anthony was not expecting that response, but is interested in the anticipated sexual pleasure. Ariel is not angry at Marc Anthony, and he also knows he has been out of the picture for a while. He responds:

Baby, don’t you trust me? Show me the trust (meaning unprotected sex).

Ariel responds:

The trust is here (again waving the condom). We must trust to protect each other.

(Project Connect, 2002).

Sex script illustration continued

Sex script illustration continued

  • The audience is left in suspense until the next episode. Do Marc Anthony and Ariel have unprotected sex? Do they use a condom? How does Ariel shift the paradigm to equating trust with taking care of each other? This sex script incorporates several concepts: sensation seeking, sexual pressure, women’s self-power and trust.



  • Since sexuality is a staple ingredient in television, magazines, and films (Larry & Grabe, 2005), mass media is one viable avenue for public health officials to disseminate sexual health messages about HIV risk reduction.

  • mass media commercial organizations need to commit and increase the amount and quality of different programming formats that would actively connect audiences to information, link them to resources, and challenge the existing gender inequalities in telenovelasthat increase HIV vulnerabilities.

Conclusion continued

Conclusion continued

Telenovelascan be adapted by diverse racial and ethnic communities as a vehicle to:

  • open up communications about HIV information and HIV risk reduction without stigma.

  • portray HIV/AIDS as a challenge that requires openly speaking about sexual behaviors between partners.

  • emphasize the collective power to participate in change.

  • Research the influence of popular media on HIV risk-reduction messages in diverse populations.

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