Social Study of HIV/AIDS Knowledge in Low Income Communities

Researchers examine how socialization institutes effect the way individuals in low income areas relate to HIV/AIDS after a natural disaster.

A study published in the Journal of Alcoholism & Drug Dependence looked at African American disaster survivors and their relationship with HIV/AIDS. The researchers were interested in seeing how different agents of socialization affected their knowledge of HIV/AIDS.

This study was conducted over a period of 3 years, during which the researchers conducted a series of interviews after a natural disaster occurred in Houston and Galveston, Texas.

The analysis included 57 focus groups, 2443 focus participants, and 132 interviews conducted with drug users and sellers. Participants were organized into focus groups by their knowledge of different drugs, including the heroin market, crack market, marijuana market, or other markets.

The information gathered from different focus groups and interviews focused on the social aspects of the disease. The researchers collected information on perceptions, general knowledge, socialization agents, beliefs, and behaviors in regards to HIV/AIDS.

Most of the participants learned about the disease through famous people or in school. Multiple subjects mentioned that they learned about the disease through Magic Johnson’s diagnosis.

Forty-two percent of participants learned about the disease through a secondary institution of socialization, such as school. Many gave testimonials about only finding out about HIV/AIDS through treatment for another sexually transmitted disease.

Only 22% of participants reported learning about the disease through family members, even though the family is referred to as the primary institution of socialization. This study found that a majority of participants knew the main ways to transmit the disease, such as sexual intercourse, dirty needles, blood transfusions, and other bodily fluids.

Researchers note that the most common answer was sexual intercourse, likely because participants identified it as a key aspect to remember. Participants mostly learned to abstain from sex or to use protection in order to avoid HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Researchers found that almost half of the participants had not been tested for the disease. Those who had not been tested claimed they would be embarrassed and depressed if they found out they were HIV positive.

There is clearly a divide between these communities and others, according to the study. The American education and health care system strives for everyone to be informed and protected against different diseases.

One participant went as far to say that pamphlets need to be worded differently for people in low income communities, describing a lot of these people as teenagers who are also high school drop outs.

Researchers found that information services geared toward the mindset of people in low income areas would greatly benefit them. Once this culture is understood, information could be provided in an accurate way that people in these areas would understand and value.