Love Patrol hemi tuff tumas! What role can a Pacific soap opera play in the HIV response?

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Copyright: Drysdale, Robyn
Communication plays a vital role in the response to HIV. However, within Melanesia cultural and traditional factors have kept discussion about sexual matters at a minimum. Love Patrol, produced in Vanuatu and broadcast throughout the Pacific region, is a television drama series specifically designed to address HIV-related issues. It tells the stories of young people, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and people living with HIV in the context of daily island life and is immensely popular with audiences. Drawing on social representations theory, this thesis develops a detailed and contextual analysis of the processes of representation in Love Patrol and its potential contribution to HIV-related social change. In-depth interviews, thematic analysis and observation were utilised to examine how this Melanesian educational entertainment production represents the issues of HIV and what effect these representations have on audience attitudes towards those infected and affected by HIV in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu. Findings demonstrate Love Patrol’s capacity to overcome social, cultural and religious taboos to enable HIV prevention education. The pervasive, popular platform of television is employed to engage audience imaginations within a context of local practice, provoking social dialogue around the contentious topics of sexuality, sex education, HIV/STI, sex work and homosexuality to reduce stigma and promote sexual rights. Love Patrol, it is argued, contributes to HIV responses by challenging and reshaping socio-cultural norms, stimulating private and public dialogue and debate, and in some cases, mobilising communities to catalyse social change. This thesis strengthens understandings of stigma reduction and social change processes and adds knowledge on how culturally embedded approaches can contribute to HIV responses. It provides a basis for HIV prevention in Melanesia based on local social and cultural values in contrast with predominant awareness-raising approaches that target individual behaviour.
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Drysdale, Robyn
Worth, Heather
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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