Rapid appraisal of substance abuse and HIV awareness messages in poster communication to disadvantaged youth in South Africa
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In this study the authors explore the responses of youth from selected disadvantaged urban communities in Gauteng province, South Africa, to a poster dealing with the topic of substance abuse and HIV/AIDS. The study involved focus group discussions with 73, 10-18 year olds chosen by quota sampling from a high school, primary school, secure youth care centre and two homes for safety. The participants reported that although they understood that the poster targeted the subject of drug use and unsafe sex, this understanding derived from other sources of HIV information than the poster. They had difficulty understanding the intended messages of the poster as the chosen message comprised complicated words and was ambiguous (open to different interpretations). The participants indicated that they preferred direct messages that clearly identified unsafe behaviours and offered instructions on alternative, safe behaviours. Their interpretations of the visuals in the poster indicated difficulty in linking the visuals of the poster with its message, particularly in less literate participants. We recommend that messages be kept short and direct, use simple and unambiguous language, and that it includes a health-enabling component to promote safe behaviours amongst youth.