A survey of attitudes toward HIV/AIDS among African-American women in the Mississippi Delta found troubling levels of denial and ignorance about the disease:
- Nearly 85 percent of the 300 women surveyed said they would not ask their male partners if they ever had sex with men.
- 71.6 percent of those surveyed, ages 15 to 50-plus, engaged in casual sex without using condoms; 76.7 percent used drugs or alcohol before intercourse.
- Older women, those ages 30-34 and 40-44, scored higher on an AIDS awareness test than subjects ages 15-29.
- Those with greater knowledge and awareness of HIV/AIDS were about as likely to engage in high-risk sex as women who were less knowledgeable.
- More than 50 percent said that anyone with AIDS deserves it, especially if he or she is homosexual, bisexual or a prostitute.
- 87.6 percent said HIV-positive teachers and childcare workers should be removed from their jobs.
The Delta was chosen due to its high AIDS rate, and because more than 60 percent of its residents are black, said study co-author Ademola Omishakin, professor of environmental health at Mississippi Valley State University. Residents there are among the poorest in the nation, with some 35 percent living in poverty.
"The study points out some real problems [in the Delta]," said Craig Thompson, director of the STD/HIV program for the state Department of Health. "I would suggest if they had studied just about any place else in rural Mississippi, they would have found the same results."
Researcher Debra Lloyd, a doctoral student at Mississippi State University, presented the findings of the study -- "HIV/AIDS Preventive Risk-Appraisal of Rural African American Women in Mississippi Delta: An Approach for Cultural-Specific Community Based Interventions," in November at the conference of the American Public Health Association in Boston.