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Harm Reduction: Think About It

Fall 1996

A study was conducted to assess the personal dynamics of women who were knowingly infected with HIV by their stable partners. Although this study took place in Brazil, the traits or "patterns of coping" that influenced women's decision to risk unprotected sex may be universal. At the very least, they're worth being aware of when we take stock of our own thoughts and behaviors concerning safer sex and harm reduction. The traits identified were classified as follows:

  • Destructive: Anger surfaced in aggression towards herself and/or others.
  • Symbiotic: Had a relationship of total dependence with partners.
  • Submissive: Gave-in to partners wishes for fear of his reaction.
  • Romantic: Had unrealistic and naive expectations of love, where dying for love had an altruistic meaning. (think Romeo and Juliett)
  • Mystic: Wished to give birth to a child thinking that the baby would have some power to restore it's parents health.
  • Fatalistic: Believed in predes-tiny of life and a divine being who could change the end.
  • Penitent: Thought the infection was a divine punishment.
  • Gambler: Behavior was related to the pleasure of risk taking.
  • Denial: Denied the seriousness of the situation or their role in determining the outcome.
  • Apathetic: Prolonged depression interfered with taking constructive action.
  • Victim: Complained but still did not take constructive action.

If any of the above ring even a distant bell for you, try to stop and listen. Recognizing the thought process that leads to possible risky (or addictive) behavior is a constructive act in itself.

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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.