A new study by the Rand Corporation and Oregon State University shows that significant numbers of African-Americans believe in conspiracy theories about AIDS and that black men with such beliefs are much less likely to use condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. The study was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and appears in the February 1 edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. It is the most thorough examination of the types of AIDS conspiracy theories held by African-Americans and is the first to also examine the relationship of those beliefs to the use of condoms.
Researchers conducted a national telephone survey of a scientifically selected random sample of 500 African-Americans, ages 15-44, from around the United States. Those surveyed were asked a series of questions about whether they agreed or disagreed with specific HIV/AIDS myths. More men than women believe in the conspiracy theories, the study found. The survey also found that about 59% agreed with the statement that "a lot of information about AIDS is being held back from the public"; 53% agreed that "there is a cure for AIDS, but it is being withheld from the poor"; nearly 27% agreed that "AIDS was produced in a government laboratory"; about 16% agreed that AIDS was created by the government to control the black population; and about 15% agreed that AIDS is a form of genocide against African-Americans.
African-American men who agreed with conspiracy myths were significantly less likely to report that they use condoms regularly. This was not the case among African-American women.
"These beliefs are widespread and demonstrate substantial mistrust of the health care system among African-Americans," said Laura Bogart, a Rand Health psychologist and lead author of the study. "For HIV prevention efforts to be successful, these beliefs need to be discussed openly, because people who do not trust the health care system may be less likely to listen to public health messages. This includes messages about HIV prevention."