What is health communication and how does it affect the HIV/AIDS continuum of care? A brief primer and case study from New York City

Douglas Storey, Kim Seifert-Ahanda, Adriana Andaluz, Benjamin Tsoi, Jennifer Medina Matsuki, Blayne Cutler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


This article responds to key questions related to health communication that are commonly asked in the HIV/AIDS arena: "What is health communication?"; "What is its role beyond HIV prevention?"; and "How can it be used to achieve better HIV/AIDS outcomes?" We review how communication scientists think about their own discipline and build on a basic definition of communication as a fundamental human process without which most individual, group, organizational, and societal activities could not happen, including how people think about and respond to health issues such as HIV and AIDS. Diverse factors and processes that drive human behavior are reviewed, including the concept of ideation (what people know, think, and feel about particular behaviors) and the influence of communication at multiple levels of a social ecological system. Four main functions of communication-information seeking and delivery, persuasion, social connection and structural/cultural expression and maintenance-are linked to a modified version of the Department of Health and Human Services Continuum of Care and are used to conceptualize ways in which communication can achieve better HIV/AIDS outcomes. The article provides examples of how communication complements other types of interventions across the HIV/AIDS continuum of care and has effects on HIV-related knowledge, attitudes, social norms, risk perceptions, service delivery quality, and behavioral decisions that affect if and when the virus is transmitted, when and where testing and care are sought, and how well adherence to antiretroviral therapy is maintained. We illustrate this approach with a case study of HIV/AIDS communication conducted by the New York City Health Department during 2005-2013.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S241-S249
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Issue numberSUPPL.3
StatePublished - Aug 15 2014


  • HIV prevention
  • behavior change
  • communication
  • continuum of care
  • health communication
  • ideation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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