2012. 19 p.
Communicatio: South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research, 38 (1), p. 103-121
The rise and dominance of social networking sites has generated increasing interest amongst scholars, mainly to understand their nature and the activities supported by these social sites. Studies conducted on social networking sites have generated information on the potential of such sites in boosting revenue-generating businesses, with limited research on how online sites can be used to address the social challenges faced by societies today. This article maintains that online social sites, in particular HIV/Aids-related sites, can possibly be used for HIV/Aids communication. The article therefore presents and reflects on the use of social networking sites amongst Rhodes students and the implications for HIV/Aids communication. The concept ‘use’ in this article is discussed under three sub-topics: (1) extent of social network site use; (2) topics or issues discussed on social sites focusing on HIV/Aids issues; and (3) the advantages and challenges of using social sites to communicate about issues such as HIV and Aids. Using both quantitative and qualitative approaches to the research design and methodology, the study found that social networking sites have become part of the youth's everyday activities, with social sites focusing on HIV/Aids-related issues being used as platforms for learning about the disease, sharing personal experiences and even finding encouragement from peers facing similar challenges. Drug abuse and sexual debut are amongst the topics discussed on HIV/Aids sites. The study also reveals that the effectiveness of social sites in communicating about HIV/Aids can be downplayed by issues of privacy, artificiality and the nature of relationships within networks.
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