Potential Contribution of the Social Representations Theory to HIV Prevention in Uganda: Theoretical and Empirical Issues

  • John Baptist Ngobi University of Ottawa, Canada
Keywords: social representations theory, worldviews, behavioural change, competence, non-European context, ABC, HIV prevention, Uganda


Behavioural change responses to prevent HIV known as ABC (A= Abstinence; B=be Faithful;

C=Condom use) in Uganda are widely acclaimed nationally and internationally. However, to

date little is known about the mechanisms by which behavioural changes occur, specifically

among traditionally high-risk groups like sex workers. Despite possessing accurate knowledge

about ABC, these groups experience very high rates of HIV infection still unexplained

empirically. Based on a literature review, this paper proposes that the social representations

theory (SRT) can inform research into the mechanisms of behavioural change, particularly

social representations or worldviews underlying local sexual practices. This understanding can

improve efforts in non-European contexts seeking to motivate individual competencies to

change risky sexual attitudes and relations. Existing HIV approaches study mainly interindividual

cognitive differences regarding HIV responses creating theoretical and empirical

problems obscuring the analysis of culturally sensitive meanings shaping local competence in

real world conditions. SRT, which primarily analyses the mechanisms through which scientific

ideas like ABC are translated into ordinary thinking, can inform empirical investigations about

worldviews shaping meanings that enhance or discourage changing risky sexual relations.

Researchers can develop tools to operationalise the social and cognitive aspects of SRT to

improve understandings of behavioural change processes and enhance the efficacy of ABC.

Despite limitations, SRT opens up a wider space for social research regarding behavioural

change responses, key to HIV prevention in countries facing extreme poverty and very high

birth rates, particularly Uganda.

Author Biography

John Baptist Ngobi, University of Ottawa, Canada

JOHN BAPTIST NGOBI (M.A Sociology). He did his Masters in Sociology at the University of

Ottawa. He is a PhD student in Population Health, University of Ottawa. As a researcher, his

interests include Population Health, HIV/AIDS, Development, Minority Cultures, Social Inequality

and Public Policy.