Is participation in HIV vaccine trials a health promoting behaviour?
Health behaviours are individual acts by which people aim to preserve or enhance their health. Theories commonly used to understand health behaviour include the Health Belief Model, the Theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behaviour, the Transtheoretical Model of Change, Social Cognitive Theory and Problem-Behaviour Theory. Targets for health-promotion interventions include exercise, smoking cessation and condom use. Some behaviours that may contribute to changes in population health, however, are not health behaviours as traditionally understood. For example, participating in an HIV vaccine trial may have the potential to contribute long-term to lowering HIV incidence. To what extent, though, can or should we apply models of health behaviour to HIV vaccine trial participation? This article grapples with the theoretical challenges facing social scientists who conduct research related to HIV vaccine trial participation. We initially consider decision making regarding trial participation from both the participant and investigator perspectives, before considering how these alternate decision-making narratives might impact on the conduct of HIV vaccine trials. We conclude by arguing that social scientists need to move beyond a narrow focus on health promotion theory and to engage in the interrelated scientific activities of theory testing and theory building. © 2007 Taylor & Francis.