An examination of several interpersonal communication textbooks reveals little information about AIDS or HIV communication in relationships. This is surprising given the importance of the topic, especially to college students on U.S. campuses. The need to reduce the risk of infection by the use of condoms or abstinence is high, and still textbooks fail to mention this topic. The finding is surprising because the topic is obviously relevant to a variety of issues in interpersonal communication (intimacy, relational escalation, self-disclosure, turning points, relational history, etc.). The communication surrounding safer sex introduces the need to consider a variety of sexual preferences and practices in a manner that increases the likelihood of open discussion by partners in an interpersonal relationship. The failure to include these topics after more than a decade of research and given the need of the readers of the text for such information deserves continued discussion and exploration. The failure of interpersonal communication textbooks to include what should become a fundamental consideration currently and in the future proves troublesome. Given the growing body of research available on this topic, the ability to incorporate the material exists.
Educational efforts must not only target increasing knowledge about the nature of HIV infection and the methods of reducing risk. The educational efforts must involve a method of examining how each partner can create a behavioral routine to permit a conversational dynamic encouraging the discussion of sexual matters in a meaningful manner. If educational efforts focus simply on increasing knowledge about the risk of HIV without creating the knowledge necessary to create a behavioral routine that permits members of dyads to identify mechanisms to communicate about this risk, efforts will probably fail. Styker et al. (1995) argued, “Social and behavioral sciences have pointed out effective HIV prevention programs; the prospects for altering the course of the HIV epidemic will turn on whether we have the courage to implement them and the fortitude to sustain them” (p. 282).