Dissertation Abstracts

Framing AIDS: Communication, Power and the Global Struggle for Access to Medicines

Author: Stavinoha, Ludek , l.stavinoha@bath.ac.uk
Department: School of Applied Social Sciences
University: University of Strathclyde, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Dr William Dinan
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: media power , communication , HIV/AIDS , framing
Areas of Research: Communication, Knowledge and Culture , Political Sociology , Health


This thesis explores the role of the media and communication in the politics of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the campaign for access to medicines in the Global South - one of the most contentious issues in the global trade and development arena since the early 2000s. It consists, firstly, of a comprehensive frame analysis of ‘AIDS in Africa’ in British (Guardian, Daily Mail, BBC News/Newsnight) and pan-European elite news media (Financial Times, The Economist, European Voice) since the late 1980s. It shows that for much of the past two decades the dominant framing is a crisis whose origins are spatially localised within Africa itself, a ‘fact of life’ of an innately disease-ridden continent. At the turn of the millennium, as focus shifted to the North-South confrontation over treatment access, a transnational civil society movement succeeded in rupturing the hegemony of frames which had rationalised the denial of life-saving medicines to the global poor, drawing the pharmaceutical industry and Northern governments into the glare of media publicity. More recently, however, a decline in coverage and the rise of 'philanthrocapitalism' has contributed to a renewed depoliticisation of the AIDS crisis in media discourse.
Secondly, through interviews with NGO and pharmaceutical industry lobbyists, EU officials and journalists, the thesis investigates the communication strategies of and relations between the key policy actors involved in the struggle over access to medicines and intellectual property rights. Focusing on the communicative space in Brussels - a key site of power in global trade and health governance - the analysis indicates that policy elites operate almost wholly outside the mediated public sphere and circuits of mass communication. Consequently, despite repeatedly losing the media framing battle, the pharmaceutical industry’s capacity to shape EU policy agendas has not significantly diminished.
Located at the interface of Media Studies, Political Communication and Political Sociology, the thesis seeks to contribute to a critical understanding of media power and its limits in contemporary post-democratic modes of governance.