A multimodal discourse analysis of selected new start network HIV/AIDS prevention campaign texts in Zambia

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Chalibonena, Hillia
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The University of Zambia
Significant efforts have been made to fight HIV/AIDS epidemic using multimodal semiotic modes of communication such as billboards, posters and brochures carrying HIV/AIDS and other health related education messages. However, it is unclear as to how the packagings of these HIV/AIDS prevention messages contribute to the interpretation of meaning by the target group. Therefore, this study explores the multimodal nature of selected New Start Network HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaign texts in Zambia. The study sought to establish how the use of both graphic and visual images influences the interpretation of messages by the target audience. This study was conducted in Lusaka’s Kalingalinga and Kabwata area from a sample of 26 respondents and 30 HIV/AIDS texts which were selected purposively. The study used focus group discussions, semi-structured interviews and photographs as methods of data collection. An exploratory research design was used to guide the process of data collection and analysis. During the process of data collection, HIV/AIDS educational messages were exposed to the respondents in order for them to interpret the intended meaning of the messages. Thereafter, data were subjected to analysis. The analysis was guided by Text-Based Multimodal Discourse Analysis. The study established that some graphics and visual images in HIV/AIDS prevention texts are coherently organised, while others are not. It also revealed that the communicative value and relationship between the graphics and visuals are subsumed in the complementary arrangement of various design features utilised by designers of messages within a text. Intentions of the producers are evidenced in messages that include those of instructing, advising, encouraging, warning and informing the target audience. The target audience rely on design features of a text to decode meanings. The study concludes that, coherent and complementary multimodal nature of texts enhances interpretation of meaning. The study suggests that HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness campaigns can only be meaningful and yield fruitful interpretations in the reduction of HIV/AIDS infection rates if only the designers of messages reconsider issues of consistence, compatibility and appropriate use of language as they construct messages that suit the literacy levels of the target audience as well as culturally acceptable. Notably, the interpretation of messages by target groups could be enhanced further if HIV/AIDS messages are designed and packaged in a more clearly and effectively manner. Therefore, the study recommends more creativity when designing and packaging of messages. Further research is needed on a social and historical significance of multimodal texts in society in order to help develop multimodality as a mature scholarly discipline in Zambia and world over.
HIV/AIDS--Prevention--Multimodal semiotic communication--Zambia