The impact of moral suasion on Internet HIV/AIDS support groups: Evidence from a discussion of seropositivity disclosure ethics

Rier, David A.
October 2007
Health Sociology Review;Oct2007, Vol. 16 Issue 3/4, p237
Academic Journal
Internet support groups are widely considered friendly, non-judgmental 'safe spaces' for exchanging support and information. However, online HIV/AIDS support group discussions of seropositivity disclosure ethics show that morality is hotly debated, sometimes in very harsh, judgmental terms. This paper is based on a wider study of over 16,000 pages downloaded from 16 different HIV/AIDS support groups. It presents a single discussion 'thread' in which group pressure persuades a fellow-participant to retreat (at least verbally) from initial unwillingness to disclose his seropositivity to partners. This paper demonstrates the impact of group discussions, and their potential as agents of change. The Discussion considers why such examples are rare, and what conditions might produce them. It locates this thread within the tradition of community empowerment, and assesses the suitability of Habermas' concept of the ideal speech situation to understanding online support and discourse. Implications for public health are discussed, as are study limitations.


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