White noise : mass media, public awareness, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in St. Petersburg, Russia
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As an epidemic in the increasingly image-conscious and media-driven twenty-first century, the course of HIV/AIDS has been shaped by both mass media's portrayal of the disease and public perception of it. Russia currently has the highest HIV infection rate outside of Sub-Saharan Africa. In St. Petersburg, HIV infection rates are continuing to rise---the primary mode of transmission is changing from Injection Drug Use (IDU) to heterosexual intercourse, and fastest growing age group of infected persons is 30-40. As the epidemic begins to spill over from IDUs and homosexual communities into the general population, new attitudes are arising within St. Petersburg society and mass media. This paper analyses the role of mass media in HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns around the world, before presenting the author's research on the effects of mass media presentations of HIV on the St. Petersburg population. Through a three-part research study involving in-depth interviews, qualitative surveys, and a media analysis, the author portrays the media landscape in St. Petersburg in 2013 with an eye towards resolving media agendas, government policies, and public attitudes.