January 25, 2005
The survey also found that:
Laura Bogart, a RAND behavioral scientist and co-author of the study, called the findings "striking and a wake-up call to the prevention community" (Washington Post, 1/25). "This is one of the first studies to show that these beliefs about HIV/AIDS may be affecting behavior," Sheryl Thorburn, an associate professor of public health at OSU and co-author of the study, said, adding, "Our results suggest that these beliefs may have a negative impact on preventive practices. We need more open discussion about these beliefs." Bogart said, "Our findings show that it's necessary to tailor a public health message to a community," adding, "Public health practitioners need to openly address these conspiracy beliefs and create culturally appropriate messages for African Americans" (RAND release, 1/25).
Na'im Akbar, a professor of psychology at Florida State University who specializes in African-American behavior, said he was not surprised at the study findings. "This is not a bunch of crazy people running around saying they're out to get us," Akbar said, adding that the beliefs come from "the reality of 300 years of slavery and 100 years of post-slavery exploitation" (Washington Post, 1/25). There have been several "well-documented cases of racial discriminations that led to substandard health care for African Americans during much of American history," including the "infamous" Tuskegee syphilis study -- in which African-American men in Alabama were denied treatment for syphilis while being told they were being treated for "bad blood," according to the release (RAND release, 1/25). However, Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, said that past discrimination against African Americans is not an excuse for allowing HIV/AIDS-related myths to continue. "It's a huge barrier to HIV prevention in black communities," Wilson said, adding, "There's an issue around conspiracy theory and urban myths. Thus we have an epidemic raging out of control, and African Americans are being disproportionately impacted in every single sense." Although African Americans make up only 13% of the U.S. population, they account for half of all new HIV infections in the country, according to CDC (Washington Post, 1/25).
Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2004 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.