Neither the Midwesterners that Chapters 5-8 were expressly concerned with nor the Southwesterners who spoke through Chapter 9 thought that AIDS would affect them. But denial alone cannot hold HIV and AIDS at bay; indeed, denial sometimes acts as a catalyst that enables HIV to spread because denial keeps people from acting to reduce their risk for infection. In light of this, a keen understanding of the mechanisms underlying denial is essential, and this book has been expressly concerned with exposing and describing them to that end.
AIDS-risk denial in the United States is tied to monogamy ideals and so to women's position in society and in relation to men. The poor urban Black women who participated in the study that is the crux of this book idealize monogamy and hope for loyal conjugal partners. For convenience, I have referred to all talk that describes this mainstream dream of fidelity, puts forth a claim of having achieved it, or supports a belief in its reality as the "Monogamy Narrative." The defensive strategy of making claims regarding one's own ability to correctly evaluate the sexual (and IV drug) history and so, supposedly, the HIV status of potential sexual partners is termed the "Wisdom Narrative."
While the Wisdom Narratives of uninvolved women who engage in casual sex as they search for suitable partners focus on their own prudence regarding men, women with steady partners embed talk of wise partner choices in Monogamy Narratives. They boast of having perfect, intact conjugal unions. They claim that condomless sex is only risky for other women, who must contend with disrespectful, cheating spouses. In making such claims, women embrace one of the most counterproductive aspects of most AIDS education messages: the erroneous advice that multiple partnering is the major AIDS-risk behavior (see Bolton 1992). Research reviewed by Margaret Nichols ( 1990) shows no correlation between seroconversion and the number of sexual partners a woman has.