Conspiracy Beliefs About HIV/AIDS and Birth Control Among African Americans: Implications for the Prevention of HIV, Other STIs, and Unintended Pregnancy

Department of Public Health, Oregon State University, 264 Waldo Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-6406, USA.
Journal of Social Issues (Impact Factor: 1.96). 04/2005; 61(1):109-26. DOI: 10.1111/j.0022-4537.2005.00396.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In this article, we examine the potential role that conspiracy beliefs regarding HIV/AIDS (e.g., "HIV is a manmade virus") and birth control (e.g., "The government is trying to limit the Black population by encouraging the use of condoms") play in the prevention of HIV, other STIs, and unintended pregnancies among African Americans in the United States. First, we review prior research indicating that substantial percentages of African Americans endorse conspiracy beliefs about HIV/AIDS and birth control. Next, we present a theoretical framework that suggests how conspiracy beliefs influence sexual behavior and attitudes. We then offer several recommendations for future research. Finally, we discuss the policy and programmatic implications of conspiracy beliefs for the prevention of HIV, other STIs, and unintended pregnancy.

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    • "Personal experience may be particularly likely to trump conventional health education on contraception for this population of young adults (see also Ref. [17]). These participants were all from ethnic and racial minority populations among whom distrust of the medical establishment, particularly related to reproductive health issues, has been documented [8] [29]. Overreliance on personal experiences has limitations and is of additional concern when those stories place all responsibility for failure on the method, rather than shared by the user as well. "
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    • "Considering the ongoing and historical mistreatment of African Americans by the health care system, it is understandable that young African Americans may accept conspiracy theories relating to HIV=AIDS as being true (Bird & Bogart, 2005). Because of high levels of mistrust in African American communities regarding messages advanced by the U.S. government, individuals living in those communities should deliver prevention messages, as opposed to unknown outsiders who are representative of the larger public health system (Bird & Bogart, 2005). In this present study, an African American identified as a local community physician and an African American identified as a local minister delivered the prevention messages. "
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    • "Social psychological research shows that trust in institutions constitutes an important psychological buffer against anxiety caused by fear of death (Solomon, Greenberg and Pyszczynski, 1991) or loss of control (Kay et al., 2009), both feelings often associated with a sudden disease outbreak. Traumatic collective events can lead individuals to increase trust in institutions (Chanley, 2002), while individuals' distrust of institutions like health authorities is associated with various forms of risky health behaviour (e.g., Bird and Bogart, 2005). Despite the importance of collectives as actors in the drama of EIDs, little systematic attention has been devoted to their study. "
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