Safer Sex in Personal Relationships: The Role of Sexual Scripts in HIV Infection and Prevention

By Tara M. Emmers-Sommer; Mike Allen | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWO
Safer Sex in Heterosexual
Dating Relationships

The advent of AIDS was initially treated as a disease that affected persons outside the norm of the heterosexual majority (homosexuals, bisexuals, commercial sex workers, and intravenous drug users). The result of this perception was a difficult period of denial where heterosexuals could essentially ignore the warning messages that were issued about the disease because the virus was determined to affect a different set of populations. After all, any condition or disease believe to impact on the “other” is something that the majority does not have to worry about. The acceptance of this infectious virus as something impacting some other group of people permits an audience to ignore or misinterpret messages. Despite years of trying to lessen the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and the mythologies, evidence demonstrates difficulty in changing fundamental views (Brown, Macintyre, & Trujillo, 2003).

This lack of concern, because the early population affected by HIV was not heterosexual, can be viewed as a mistake when examining the spread of the disease in Africa. The overwhelming majority of cases in Africa are the result of unprotected heterosexual behavior. The perception of the disease in the United States remains that largely of something associated with white gay males (promiscuous and anal sex practitioners) or intravenous drug users. This perception creates a sense of deniability for the heterosexual in the United States when considering or evaluating the risk.

The first major celebrity (viewed as heterosexual) to contract HIV was Earvin “Magic” Johnson. His announcement created a media sensation that did generate some significant changes in the level of knowledge and behavior in the United States (for a summary of the research see Casey et al., 2003). The most significant effect based on age was the adults' report that Johnson's announcement made them more knowledgeable about the transmission of HIV and increased their level of anxiety about AIDS. This finding is not surprising when one considers that

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