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American Public Health Association
133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition
December 10-14, 2005
Philadelphia, PA
APHA 2005
4231.0: Tuesday, December 13, 2005 - 3:30 PM

Abstract #108273

Other evidence: Qualitative research in HIV prevention policy making

Deborah Tolman, EdD and Celeste Hirschman, MA. Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality/Human Sexuality Studies, San Francisco State University, 2017 Mission St., Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94110, 415-437-5110, dtolman@sfsu.edu

Issues: In the arena of policy decision-making, scientific evidence is increasingly being replaced by anecdotes that support ideological agendas. While highly problematic as grounds for making policy, policy makers' growing attention to anecdotal evidence may provide an unexpected opportunity for qualitative researchers to capitalize on the power of stories to influence policymakers' decisions. Qualitative research combines the power of stories with methodological rigor, which can provide policy-makers with important information about the complexity of problems and suggest possible solutions. Description: The case of qualitative research on heterosexual female adolescents' sexuality is used. Across four major peer-reviewed studies, key findings were identified and compared. Gender inequalities were found to pervade young women's stories about their sexual and relationship experiences across all four studies which make them vulnerable to HIV and undermine their ability to protect themselves. Lessons Learned: Gender inequalities in adolescent girls' narratives appeared as: navigating the slut-prude dialectic; experiencing male pressure and coercion; and lack of sexual subjectivity among girls. These findings illuminate how the abstinence-only vs. comprehensive sexuality education debate itself is impoverished, since neither approach accounts for the role of gender inequality in how adolescents' negotiate sexual decisions. Recommendations: HIV prevention for adolescents should incorporate critical thinking about gender to resist the naturalization of gender-stereotyped behavior, including training teachers in how young people can identify and challenge cultural assumptions about sexuality that uphold and reproduce gender inequality. Qualitative researchers can destabilize the power of anecdotes by comparatively exposing their lack of method, depth, and complexity.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Sexuality, Public Policy

Related Web page: crgs.sfsu.edu

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

I wish to disclose that I have NO financial interests or other relationship with the manufactures of commercial products, suppliers of commercial services or commercial supporters.

HIV and Sexuality: Research into Policy

The 133rd Annual Meeting & Exposition (December 10-14, 2005) of APHA