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self esteem and cultural stereotypes

Dec 13, 2004


I read once (i think it was the NYtimes) that the increased rates of HIV infection amongst black women (esp. in nyc) was attributable to negative self images and cultural stereotypes, meaning that they had sex to overcome to prove that they were attractive. I know that many women and men do this but i was led to believe that the pervasive cultural attitudes about black women led them to have more sex. Do you think this is true? And do you know of anyone that i could talk to about this? Or places i could go to read more about this "theory"?

Response from Dr. Horwath

I don't know of any "cultural stereotype" that leads people to have "more sex." Sex is a universal activity in every cultural group. The suggestion that black women have more sex than others sounds more like a prejudicial and unfounded stereotype.

In any case, HIV infection isn't caused by "having more sex" than other people. It is caused by having unsafe sex with an infected partner or sharing contaminated needles with an infected drug injection partner. The factors that cause people to expose themselves to unsafe sex and sharing contaminated needles are extremely complex. In my own experience with treating African-American women, the contributing factors include histories of childhood neglect and physical and sexual abuse, growing up in environments with alcohol and drug abuse, poor education, and living in neighborhoods with high rates of HIV prevalence among the men who are likely to become their sexual partners.

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