The use of narrative fiction to spread HIV information in Papua New Guinea

December 22, 2010

Background to the Abstract

The nature of media coverage of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) needs to vary in order to be sustained by newspapers—writing the same message, however worthy, loses impact over time. So an interesting innovation in the 2010 coverage of HIV in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is the publication of a serialised fiction story in the Post-Courier. It is the story of Vavine, a young girl infected with HIV, who is forced to leave her village after her parents’ deaths from AIDS. She keeps her infection secret but because of her circumstances, she is forced to work in a club where sex is freely traded. What makes the story an educational tool, rather than soap opera, is the constant reinforcement of the safe-sex message and exploration of other social issues, including sorcery, beliefs surrounding magic and death, and promiscuity. This represents a shift in reporting towards a better explanation of the disease in the context of broader social and cultural issues. This type of reporting - that uses narrative fiction - could signal a new and more effective approach for reporting on HIV in the Pacific.

Recommended Citation

Cullen, T., & Callaghan, R. (2010). The use of narrative fiction to spread HIV information in Papua New Guinea. Retrieved from

About the Author

Dr Trevor Cullen (PhD) is Professor of Journalism at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia. Trevor is recognised as a national and international leader in the field of HIV/health Journalism and Journalism education. He has received several University and national teaching and research awards. These include two Australian Government awards – A National Teaching and Learning Fellowship (NTF) and the Australian Award for University Teaching. (AAUT).

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