Tag Archives: HIV

Are you aware of your partner’s secret STD?

By Kevin R. Betts

“Don’t wait until you’re naked in bed with someone to tell them you have an STD.” This is legitimate advice from therapist and relationship expert Rachel A. Sussman, as quoted in a recent CNN health article. But as an uninfected individual, is this unfortunate scenario something that you need to be concerned about? Certainly an individual that you willingly become intimate with wouldn’t put you at risk without at least informing you. Right? Not necessarily.

Take HIV infection as an example. Fisher, Kohut, and Fisher (2009) point out that most research in the social sciences aimed at preventing the spread of HIV targets uninfected individuals. Meanwhile, research aimed at preventing high risk behaviors among infected individuals remains scarce. Yet it is infected individuals that are the greatest threat to the spread of this disease. Fisher et al. (2009) argue that this inappropriate focus on the behaviors of uninfected individuals resulted from the well-intentioned efforts of researchers to avoid strengthening existing patterns of prejudice, fear of contagion, and blaming the victim. Although these intentions are admirable, they nonetheless have neglected to consider an important link in the chain of infection. Many infected individuals remain willing to hide information about HIV and other contagious diseases from their partner(s). Fisher et al. (2009) urge social scientists to refocus their efforts on preventing high risk behaviors among infected individuals.

What should uninfected individuals take from this example? It is important that you speak with your partner(s) about sexually transmitted diseases. Although this discussion may be uncomfortable, it may also save you extensive physical and psychological distress down the line.

Read more:

8 tips for telling your partner a health secret (CNN)

Fisher, W.A., Kohut, T., & Fisher, J. (2009). AIDS exceptionalism: On the social psychology of HIV prevention research. Social Issues and Policy Review, 3, 45-77.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

Free love is innocent?Think clearly before you do it!

Free love has not ruled since the 1970’s but apparently unprotected intercourse among not only young adults but also older unmarried Americans is on the rise. According to a recent A.A.R.P. study of singles in the 45 plus category, only 12 percent of the sexually active single men and only 33 percent of sexually active women report using condoms. The behavior of having unprotected sexual intercourse provides a very interesting puzzle, as a high proportion of adults are aware of the possible negative consequences of having unprotected sex, and that individuals can greatly reduce their risk of causing a pregnancy or of  contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by using a latex condom. It is worthwhile to examine the reasons underlying this failure to use condoms as unprotected sex raises the risk of STD among people across all ages.

 According to previous research, intentions to use condoms clearly do not always translate into condom-use behavior. Ambivalent attitude towards sexual activity is one factor which could explain the inconsistence between intention to use condom and condom using behaviors. MacDonald and Hynie’s study (2008) indicated that participants who were ambivalent about sexual activity were more likely to engage in unplanned sexual activity than were participants who were not ambivalent. Furthermore, individuals who engaged in unplanned sexual intercourse were less likely to report that they used a condom than those who intended to have sexual intercourse. As a result, whether sexual activity was planned mediated the relationship between ambivalence and condom use. It seems reasonable that people who are less ambivalent about sexual activity are more likely to plan and correctly predict when they will have sexual intercourse, which allows for important preparatory behaviors (e.g., having condoms available).

More are doing it, less are using protection

MacDonald, T.K. & Hynie, M. (2008). Ambivalence and Unprotected Sex: Failure to Predict Sexual Activity and Decreased Condom Use. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38, 1092-1107.