The U.S. public health community is in its 3rd decade of seeking to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. Injection drug users (IDUs) are central to targeted HIV prevention interventions as approximately one third of new U.S. infections are attributable to injection drug use (Santibanez et al.,Journal of Urban Health, 83, 86-100, 2006). Targeted behavior change efforts are often explicitly built upon the risk perception of targeted individuals. In this article, we consider the efficacy of behavior change based on IDUs' perceptions of elevated risk. Our qualitative analysis of 28 interviews with HIV negative IDUs in inner city Baltimore suggests that participants did not see themselves as personally affected by HIV. Rather, respondents constructed accounts in which they differentiated themselves from the type of people who are so affected, thereby creating a less stigmatizing identity. We argue that effective HIV prevention should explicitly acknowledge and address the stigmatized IDU identity, rather than assuming readiness for behavior change.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health(social science)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases