Do stigma, blame and stereotyping contribute to unsafe sexual behaviour? A test of claims about the spread of HIV/AIDS arising from social representation theory and the AIDS risk reduction model

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In the context of social representation theory and the AIDS risk reduction model, it has been claimed that stigmatizing, blaming and stereotyping attitudes make people feel less at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, and that this, in turn, results in them taking fewer precautions in their sexual behaviour. Previous research has failed to provide convincing evidence to support these claims. The present study provided a test of the claims that addressed some of the methodological issues identified in the earlier research. A sample of 460 young people from Ghana, ranging in age from 15 to 28 years (mean = 18), completed a questionnaire that measured the relevant constructs. The results supported the claims in relation to stigmatizing and intended sexual risk behaviour, but not stigmatizing and actual sexual risk behaviour. Although the latter two were correlated, this was not mediated by reduced perceptions of vulnerability. Claims in relation to blaming and stereotyping were not supported. Contrary to expectation, specific blaming and stereotyping attitudes that constructed HIV/AIDS as a sexual disease were associated with safer intended sexual behaviour, and this relationship was mediated by feeling at greater risk. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-607
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2010


  • HIV/AIDS, Ghana, Sexual risk taking, Blame, Stereotyped attitudes, Stigma, Risk perception