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HIV/AIDS: Language, Metaphors, and Social Construction

  • By: Rebecca J. W. Cline
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Knowledge about HIV/AIDS is not simply a product of objective medical science. Everyday shared knowledge about a disease is socially constructed and builds on the language surrounding that disease. Initial and evolving labels for HIV/AIDS and its metaphors contributed to the social construction of a highly stigmatizing disease.

Socially constructed reality is a product and process of everyday talk. Everyday interaction creates a shared reality that bridges the subjective and objective. Subjective realities vary by individual, whereas socially constructed realities build on widely shared or intersubjective knowledge. Continuous social validation and often unconscious reinforcement of socially constructed realities harden or solidify them so that they become accepted as objectively real.

In everyday talk people share labels for understanding their experiences. Thus, their experiences are filtered through ...

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