Re: [xmca] Papers for discussion: HIV, interventions and activity theory

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Tue Oct 21 2008 - 03:40:34 PDT

RSA is a country where social movements are still alive in a
way in which they are no longer in many other countries, and
people know how to run a social movement, Mary, so it is
probably worth continuing research in that direction. There
is the motivation of the group and their existing social
power. I guess if the two came together, we wouldn't have
the problem in the first place. But I do think you have to
work from the social group that is motivated to act, first
of all. If that's the grandmothers, then so be it.
Grandmothers can be a powerful group.

Here in Victoria, there have been a number of quite
successful campaigns funded by the Health budget, against
dangerous driving, smoking, obesity, unsafe sex, ... over
several decades, and the general belief is that people are
not afraid of death. It is better to tell a boy that smoking
gives them bad breath and girls won't want to kiss them than
to tell them they will die of lung cancer.

On the use of Peircean semiotics in this context, see: or


Mary van der Riet wrote:
> Dear Andy
> I think that there might be a social base for a 'social movement' in
> this context, in the sense that parents (the older generation) is
> extremely worried about the rate of infection and the increase in the
> number of deaths. However, parents/older people have relatively little
> 'sway' in this context (as do parents all over the world in relation to
> youth).
> Although there are orphans, they are often not in orphanages (SA doesnt
> have many and the problem of orphans is huge), but with extended family
> members, or grandmothers who remain the sole adults in the family who
> have not succumbed to HIV. The idea of mobilising orphans is an
> interesting one. My sense is that they are usually so overwhelmed by the
> struggle to survive without adults that being advocates for changing
> broader social conditions would be hard. They are also often very young
> when they are orphaned (under 10), and so disempowered age-wise too.
> Changing the attractiveness of being sexually active (for example as
> you suggest, making taking risks into 'stupid' acts) sounds very much
> like changing 'norms/conditions' in the context. There are many
> interventions with youth which try to create other activities for them
> (so that the focus is not on sex and risks), and encourage a focus on
> the future. There are examples of campaigns which focus on creating an
> 'HIV-free generation', but I dont think they have re-imaged the idea of
> being sexually attractive - and these campaigns have not had much of an
> effect.
> Another possibility of a social base is the people who were involved in
> the research in the first place (youth in the research context). My
> assumption is that reflecting on the findings (of risky practices, rate
> of infection, prevalence of HIV etc) with those who were participants,
> might create the conditions for future contradictions.
> Do you have a particular reference for Peirce and the three 'registers'
> - seems like something useful there
> Mary
> Mary van der Riet; School of Psychology; University of KwaZulu-Natal
> Private Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209
> email:
> tel: 033 260 6163; fax: 033 2605809
>>>> Andy Blunden <> 2008/10/14 03:37 PM >>>
> Mary,
> Your work is really exciting. The problem seems almost
> insurmountable - how to change the sexual mores of an entire
> population??
> Just thinking randomly about a few things ...
> Social movements need a social base. Is it possible to
> identify some social group who is motivated to dedicate
> themselves to this task? For example, efforts to stamp out
> alcohol abuse in Indigenous Australian communities have
> turned to the older women to recruit their shock troops
> because these women suffer from the drunkenness of their
> men. Maybe even the orphans in orphanages could be
> mobilised? ...
> The Transport Accident Commission here has had a great deal
> of success in lowering the rate of people getting killed in
> car accidents by advertising campaigns which aim to make
> certain dangerous behaviours just look stupid. Bascially,
> you need to change the image of a sexually attractive man or
> woman. It is often the case that rational understanding of
> the lethal consquences has little effect if people *feel*
> powerful and good when doing the unsafe practice.
> In general my theory is that, following CS Peirce, you have
> to coordiante the attack on three registers: the symbolic
> (AIDS is caused by a sexually transmitted virus), the
> indexical (a social movement of people motivated to stop the
> unsafe sex) and the iconic (making unsafe sex look like what
> it is, not sexy but unsafe).
> Does that strike ant bells?
> Andy
> Mary van der Riet wrote:
>> Hi all
>> I would like to raise the question asked in both of my papers
> presented
>> at ISCAR (and referred to by Mike below), about the possibilities of
>> intervention in social problems - such as an epidemic. This is also
>> partly in response to Steve Gabosch's post (My Iscar), and an
> off-list
>> discussion I have been having.
>> CHAT (and the ATriangle) really has helped me to understand some of
> the
>> dynamics around individual responses to HIV. They have, as Steve
> says,
>> ‘methodological power’.
>> The most common response to me research topic is ‘What do you say
>> about interventions?’ I don’t think there is an easy answer to
>> this. There is perhaps not even ‘an’ answer to this question.
> My
>> second paper reflected on the implementation of a ‘social
>> mobilisation’ process in the same community referred to in the
> first
>> paper. I perhaps need to provide some background on the idea of
>> ‘social mobilisation’ as we used it. Some of my colleagues (in
>> an organisation called CADRE) had funding from Save the Children
> to
>> pilot a ‘social mobilisation’ process. The idea was conceived
> by
>> Save the Children and was in response to the dominant
>> ‘individualistic’ orientation of most HIV and AIDS
> interventions.
>> The phrase was not theorised deeply by us and because of time
> pressure
>> we did not look at literature on other ‘social mobilisation’
>> processes - which perhaps we should have (and I think that social
>> mobilisation in the Marxist sense that Steve refers to is perhaps
> what
>> the Treatment Action Campaign has been doing ito advocating and
>> mobilizing for better policies on HIV treatment and access to
>> medication - perhaps a question is what is ‘political’ action
> in
>> trying to achieve behaviour change as opposed to policy change?, and
> how
>> does this relate to 'individual' level change?)
>> After being given the brief by Save the Children, we operationalised
>> it in our own terms (the report is available on -
> Making
>> HIV/AIDS our problem: Young people and the development challenge in
>> South Africa, 2002). The initial premise was that this was a context
>> with a high rate of risky sexual practices, and it was a context in
>> which HIV was stigmatized, silenced and ‘othered’. The aim
> became:
>> how can we, firstly, understand and, secondly, influence the
>> community’s ‘response’ to HIV and AIDS to that the broader
>> context of their ‘individual activity’ could change. The
> assumption
>> was that this would set the conditions for individual change.
> However,
>> it wasn’t really an intervention and implementing the process was
> not
>> based on a CHAT analysis, so my reflection in the paper is really
>> applying CHAT after the fact. It also had slightly different goals
> to
>> what might have been addressed if the research data had been
> followed
>> through. The social mobilisation process focused on the group’s
>> ‘response’ to HIV in
>> a very broad sense (in part to address stigmatisation), and this
>> broadness, I think, meant that very limited ‘changes’ resulted
> from
>> the process.
>> I think that the degree of interest on the part of residents of this
>> particular area in the research process and in the social
> mobilisation
>> process suggests that it might be possible to set up a process of
>> critical reflection through a ‘Change Laboratory’ process in an
>> ‘open’ setting (ie not an organizational setting). This is
> what
>> I would like
>> to do once my phd process is finished and this might be able to
>> generate some ‘solutions’ to the very huge problem of HIV/AIDS.
> One
>> of the useful things about the research context is that there is
> some
>> degree of ‘coherence’ amongst the village residents and between
> the
>> villages themselves. However, the research process took place a few
>> years ago
>> and there have been changes since then. And I am still learning
> about
>> the ‘change lab’ process and would need to raise a team of people
> to
>> engage in something like this, but its something I am thinking
> about.
>> so, how does one and how can one make 'changes' in society happen to
>> the degree that one needs in the HIV/AIDS pandemic (which the UNAIDS
>> Report 2008 says is on the rise in Britain, Russia, China, Germany,
>> Ukraine and Indonesia)?
>> Mary
>> Mary van der Riet; School of Psychology; University of KwaZulu-Natal
>> Private Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209
>> email:
>> tel: 033 260 6163; fax: 033 2605809
>>>>> "Mike Cole" <> 2008/10/07 08:44 PM >>>
>> We have contacted Taylor and Francis to get the new "arrticle for
>> discussion" available as a pdf file on their
>> MCA page. Meantime, we have these papers for discussion that one or
>> another
>> of you has asked to discuss.
>> Discuss away!!
>> mike
>> --------------
>> *Race and Language as Capital in School: A Sociological Template for
>> Language Education Reform
>> * <>
> Allan
>> Luke
> DRAFT*<>
>> Yrjö Engeström, University of Helsinki
>> *CHAT and HIV/AIDS: An activity system analysis of a lack of
> behaviour
> change*<>
>> Mary van der Riet
>> *Activity Theory and reconceptualising HIV/AIDS
> interventions*<>
>> Mary van der Riet
>> _______________________________________________
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Andy Blunden +61 3 9380 9435 
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Received on Tue Oct 21 03:40:47 2008

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