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African Americans and HIV: Knowledge and decision making pertaining to sexual risk

Melva V. Thompson-Robinson, MSPE, DrPH1, Donna L. Richter, EdD2, Marya Shegog, BA2, Denethia B. Sellers, MSW, PhD3, Vanisha Brown, MPH1, and Mike F. Weaver, MPH2. (1) Institute of Public Health, Florida A&M University, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 207C Science Research Center, Tallahassee, FL 32307, 850-599-3108, melva.robinson@famu.edu, (2) Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, Health Sciences Building, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, (3) Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, Florida A&M University, Gaither Office Complex, Tallahassee, FL 32307

Background: African Americans are disproportionately burdened by HIV/AIDS, despite representing a low percentage of the United States population. Qualitative methods can elucidate African Americansí perceptions about HIV/AIDS, their knowledge of their partnersí HIV risk behaviors and how their decision-making regarding sexual activity is shaped by this knowledge or lack of knowledge.

Methods: Focus groups were conducted with African American men and women, stratified by gender, age and locality. The recordings from all focus groups were professionally transcribed for analysis. Two investigators coded the data independently for emergent and recurring themes then met to review and reconcile differences in coding through comparison and discussion. The data was further analyzed for the similarities and differences between gender, sex and locality.

Results: Initial analysis indicates that African American men and women have both similar and differing perceptions concerning the threat of HIV/AIDS, and these perceptions directly influence their decisions regarding sexual activity. The data also indicates that African American women, in particular, have an inherent lack of trust in the medical community that results in confusion about how HIV/AIDS can be contracted.

Conclusions: Further qualitative analysis has given greater insight into the African American perception of HIV/AIDS, knowledge of HIV risk behaviors and how partner knowledge plays a role in decision-making. A combination of emergent and recurring themes from current literature as well as the qualitative analysis findings have then been used as a foundation for the development of a scale and behavioral items in a survey instrument.

Learning Objectives:

  • Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:
    I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

    Handout (.ppt format, 136.5 kb)

    HIV/AIDS Research Roundtable: African American Health

    The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA