Pragmatic Acts In HIV/AIDS Social Management Advertisements

Toyin Makinde


Studies on the social management of HIV and AIDS have focused on how awareness about
HIV and AIDS has been created through organised and interpersonal communication. These
studies have not investigated context-constrained language use in the advertisements on the
disease despite the wide coverage and potential effectiveness of the public sensitisation about
HIV and AIDS. This study, therefore, investigated the pragmatic features of language in
selected HIV and AIDS management advertisements with a view to identifying the pragmatic
acts of the language. Aspects of pragmatic act theory, noted for negotiability of meaning
context based interactional situations was adopted for the research. All the 25 advertisements
broadcast between December 2006 and June 2009, to all African countries on both private
and government-owned television stations in Nigeria by an International non-governmental
agency known as 'it begins with you' (YOU) constituted the data. Fifty–four utterances were
generated from the adverts and were subjected to qualitative analysis and reported in simple
percentages. Six pragmatic functions manifested in the advertisements: Co-opting and
Projecting were realised through inference (INF), shared situational knowledge (SSK) and
relevance (REL) to bring the audience into the war against HIV/AIDS. Encouraging and
Emboldening were projected through SSK and INF to motivate the audience to go for HIV
test and speak openly about the virus. Instigating was done using indirect speech act to
empower the female against discrimination and stigmatisation. Advising was achieved
through SSK and INF to promote fidelity and safe sexual behaviour. The analysis of YOU
advertisements through pragmatic act theory presupposes that pragmatic functions were
exploited by the advertisers to sensitise the audience, promote social ties and project into an
HIV free generation.