Changes of Core Knowledge for AIDS Health Promotion in China: from 1990s to the Digital Era


AIDS remains a major infectious disease in contemporary world; Chinese officials estimated 1.4 million people are living with HIV in China. Public education activities in China were launched by officials in 1980s. Kernel knowledge of AIDS publicity and education issued by national health authorities has been guiding the practice of HIV/AIDS health communication during these years, as well as showed the official attitude towards HIV/AIDS problems.

With historical perspectives, this paper traced back and analyzed five versions of HIV/AIDS kernel knowledge for public education released by Ministry of Health of China(MOH) and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC, China), with the aim of capturing the changes of official prevention discourses. Five documents were respectively 'Publicity Education Outline for HIV/AIDS Prevention'(1995), 'Key Knowledge Points for HIV/AIDS Publicity and Education'(1998 and 2004), 'Publicity and Education Knowledge on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control for Different Groups' (2014 and 2019).

This analysis was based on the frame theory; the method of content analysis and word cloud diagram was used to show the changes of core knowledge content.

This study revealed that, in the discourse of Chinese health authorities, the HIV/AIDS knowledge for health communication has shifted in three frame aspects. Firstly, it changed from a social mobilization framework to an individual framework, which meant the prevention patterns of government leading and multi-sector cooperation converted to individual responsibilities. Secondly, the framework of behavior change turned into the framework of medical technology, which meant the prevention model of knowledge, attitude, belief, practice (KABP) transferred to the focus on expanding testing and treatment. Thirdly, the anti-discrimination framework was replaced by the framework of legal discipline, which meant the emphasis of inclusiveness and anti-discrimination was replaced by emphasizing the legal responsibility of infected people.

These changes in the kernel knowledge discourses revealed by this study reflected the transforms of official attitude towards HIV/AIDS which, in turn, undoubtedly played a key role for prevention practice under China's political system.

Moreover, the time span in these years coupled with the media revolution which stepped from print to digital. As reflections on this study, it was worth noting that, in the view of knowledge production of health communication, the official discourses have continually regulated the communication framework in spite of profound changes taken placed in media forms; in other words, it seemed that the digital era had little impact on health knowledge production. This actually reflected two gaps in the health communication in our digital age: one was the media gap—whether the digital media could change the one-way flow of information in the area of health communication; the other was the content gap—whether the digital age could load new communication content in highly specialized health communication area. These were the questions to be further discussed.