Choosing Unsafe Sex: AIDS-Risk Denial among Disadvantaged Women

By Elisa J. Sobo | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Seropositivity Self-Disclosure and Concealment

People who have tested negative for HIV or who have not been tested at all often fear being lied to or manipulated by unethical seropositive individuals. This fear, in turn, affects risk-related behavior. Urban legends abound warning of beautiful HIV-positive charmers who enchant and then have unprotected sex with unsuspecting seronegative 1 people in order to spread the virus (regarding the social construction of AIDS and the further ramifications of myths such as this one, see Abelove 1994; cf. Farmer 1992; Turner 1993). Moreover, several cases in which HIV- positive individuals had unprotected sex with others while concealing their seropositivity have received extensive publicity.

Take, for example, the story of Gaetan Dugas, or "Patient Zero." Ralph Bolton notes that after the 1987 publication of Randy Shilts's And the Band Played On, which chronicled not only Dugas's progression from HIV infection to death but also his plenteous sexual liaisons, Dugas's story "was given extensive coverage and the role of his sexual escapades in spreading AIDS around the continent was highlighted" ( 1992, 20). Dugas was vilified despite the fact that he could not have known as we do today the role of sexual intercourse in HIV transmission -- and despite the essential part he played in helping epidemiologists to describe that role. Bolton also describes the case of HIV-positive prostitute Fabian Bridges, who allegedly intentionally infected his clients. Bolton points out, "In both of these cases the promiscuous individual was blamed for continuing to have sex knowingly and intentionally without concern for the consequences to his partners, thereby linking promiscuity with psychopathology ( Bersani 1988) and sickness with crime ( Quam 1990, 34)" ( 1992, 20; citations in original).

Data from the few existing studies on HIV self-disclosure suggest that non-disclosure is indeed a problem. However, rather than hate and sinfulness, as implied in media reports such as those mentioned and in ru

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