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[afro-nets] Many Black Americans May Believe in HIV Conspiracy

Many Black Americans May Believe in HIV Conspiracy

Conspiracy theories about the origin, nature and cure of
HIV/AIDS are not uncommon in Africa as elsewhere in the black
Diaspora. The report below helps to raise awareness of local and
international program managers to the need to factor a response
to this important public health issue into their programs.

A. Odutola

Many Black Americans May Believe in HIV Conspiracy

Source: Reuters Health
Published: Wednesday, January 26 2005
By: Amy Norton

Copied as "fair use".

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A sizable number of African Ameri-
cans believe in various HIV conspiracy theories, and it may be
deterring some men from using condoms, a new survey suggests.

Researchers found that among 500 African Americans ages 15 to
44, more than half believed that information about HIV/AIDS is
being held back from the public, and that a cure for AIDS exists
but is being "withheld from the poor."

In addition, nearly half agreed with the statement that "HIV is
a man-made virus," while a much smaller percentage -- about 15
percent -- believed the AIDS epidemic is a form of genocide
against blacks.

Among men, who tended to hold stronger conspiracy-theory views
than women, such beliefs were linked to lower rates of condom
use, according to findings published in the Journal of Acquired
Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

"These beliefs are widespread and demonstrate substantial mis-
trust of the health care system among African Americans," lead
study author Dr. Laura M. Bogart, a psychologist at the research
organization RAND Corp., said in a statement.

"For HIV prevention efforts to be successful, these beliefs need
to be discussed openly, because people who do not trust the
health care system may be less likely to listen to public health

A number of studies have demonstrated that black Americans have
a greater distrust of doctors and medical researchers than
whites do -- a discrepancy thought to stem from the history of
racial discrimination in the U.S. health system.

Most infamous was the "Tuskegee study," a 40-year project that
ended in the early 1970s, in which researchers withheld treat-
ment from poor black men with syphilis in order to document the
natural progression of the infection.

To win greater trust in black communities, Bogart and her col-
leagues write in the report, public health agencies "need to ac-
knowledge the origin of conspiracy beliefs openly."

Enlisting the help of people in black communities to spread pub-
lic health messages about HIV and conspiracy beliefs -- known as
peer education -- could be one way to address the issue, accord-
ing to the researchers.

The study, a telephone survey of a national sample of black
Americans, asked respondents the extent to which they agreed or
disagreed with a number of statements about HIV.

Overall, 58 percent "somewhat" or "strongly" agreed with the
statement, "A lot of information about AIDS is being held back
from the public." Fifty-three percent believed that there is a
cure for AIDS, but it's being withheld from the poor.

Few respondents agreed with the most extreme conspiracy theories
-- including the notion that doctors "put HIV into condoms" or
that HIV/AIDS drugs are "poison."

SOURCE: Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, Febru-
ary 1, 2005.

Copyright 2003 Reuters.

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