163555 Are HIV conspiracy beliefs deleterious to African American's sexual health ?

Monday, November 5, 2007: 1:15 PM

Cheryl Armstead, MS(R), PhD , Department of Psychology, South Carolina Cancer Prevention and Control Progrm, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Eugena Kenyatta Griffin, MA , Clinical-Community Psychology, Ph.D. Program, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC

This study explored the effects of HIV conspiracy beliefs (HIVCON) and gender on sexually transmitted disease (STD) risk and protective behaviors among African Americans (AAs). HIVCON was identified as a barrier to STD control and prevention in previous studies. The positive effects of HIVCON were not considered. The objective of this study was to understand the contribution of HIVCON to racial disparities in both STD risk and protection. It was expected that HIVCON and male gender would increase risky sexual behaviors and attitudes.


370 AAs from lower SES, Black census tracts completed telephone interviews about sexually-related cultural beliefs, protective behaviors, and risk-taking. Respondent's ages were between 18 to 55 years. Phone exchanges were obtained from a 6% stratified probability sample. Participants indicated their level of agreement with the statement, "HIV/AIDS was created to harm minorities.


35.1% of respondents reported HIVCON. 50.0% reported knowledge about the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments. Notably, knowledge about the Tuskegee Studies was unrelated to HIVCON. ANCOVA's indicated that males who endorsed HIVCON were more likely to report monogamous sexual relationships than: 1) males who did not endorse HIVCON and 2) all females, regardless of HIVCON beliefs. Males who endorsed HIVCON were more likely to obtain free condoms from clinics than other males and all females. Contrary to the extant literature, gender and HIVCON had no effect on risk behaviors.


The results do not support the prevailing assumption that HIVCON deleteriously affects protective behaviors and increases risk behaviors. To the contrary, it appears that HIVCON may increase the salience of monogamous sexual relationships among Black males. HIVCON increased the utilization of free condom distribution sites among AA men, but not women. The positive implications of HIVCON must be fully investigated. Policy which supports translational research will facilitate the application of our findings to prevention efforts in communities of color.

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe how HIV/AIDS and other STDs disproportionately affect African American men and women in South Carolina. 2. Describe the development and role of conspiracy theories in Black communities. 3. Articulate potential maladaptive and adaptive influences of HIV conspiracy theories in Black communities. 4. Describe the theoretical concerns related to viewing community-based HIV conspiracy theories as solely maladaptive. 5. Describe the unmet need for sociocultural translational research for African American communities. 6. Summarize intra-cultural issues, such as HIV conspiracy belief systems, that providers should discuss during STD counselling with African American men and women.

Keywords: African American, Sexual Risk Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.