Choosing Unsafe Sex: AIDS-Risk Denial among Disadvantaged Women

By Elisa J. Sobo | Go to book overview

Chapter 9
Self-Disclosure Self-Described

The need for safer sex practice does not end with a negative HIV test; neither does it end with a positive diagnosis. Indeed, safer sex is as imperative for HIV-positive individuals as it is for HIV-negative individuals, not only because the former might otherwise pass the virus on but also because they are at risk for reinfection and for infection with other kinds of pathogens. While this project did not originally concern the experiences of individuals who know themselves to be HIV-positive, it soon became clear that, in addition to self-esteem and status-related concerns, the riskrelated behavior of seronegative and untested people can be affected by the imagined threat of being lied to or manipulated by treacherous seropositive individuals.

Data from the few existing studies of self-disclosure (reviewed in Chapter 4) suggest that non-disclosure is indeed a problem. It may in many cases be motivated by desires for intimacy and fears of rejection. This chapter explores these desires and fears. Further, this chapter shows that for seropositive people non-disclosure also can be a rational strategy and a response to AIDS-risk denial in seronegative partners and those who do not know their serostatus. The apparent ubiquity of safer-sex information enables such non-disclosure by creating a sociocultural world in which risk taking by seronegative (or untested) individuals can be understood by seropositive people as stemming from well-informed decisions. Moreover, as standard safer-sex education messages suggest that when precautionary measures are taken all will be well, seropositive individuals may choose to keep their seropositivity secret while endeavoring to render the act of omission or non-disclosure harmless through prophylactic measures.


Background

Existing Knowledge

As noted in Chapter 4, self-disclosure among women has received little, if any, direct attention. It is mentioned in passing by Anitra Pivnick ( 1993)

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