HIV/AIDS: Contagious or Conspiracy?

New Studies Shed Light on Outdated Black Views on the Epidemic

Much light is being shed on the fact that African Americans across the country truly believe that the virus known as HIV/AIDS was introduced to the African American community as a means of population control and eliminating blacks in America.  

Studies have appeared in the Washington Post, Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, and several different websites. This mindset of African Americans toward this HIV/AIDS conspiracy has been a rumor that has echoed throughout the black community for countless years.  

The underlying question is: Why is this conspiracy such an issue today when it was not acknowledged years ago? The truth lies with a company entitled the RAND Corporation who along with Sheryl Thorburn, Associate Professor in the College of Health and Human Services at Oregon State University (OSU), and Laura Bogart, a RAND Health psychologist initiated and conducted the study that peaked the interest of local media in areas concentrated with blacks.  

According to the RAND website, RAND is a contraction of the term research and development. For more than 50 years, RAND has claimed to be a “nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world.”  

The RAND corporation joined with OSU’s Sheryl Thorburn, who was at the forefront of the research, and conducted research that had been perused proven before, but RAND and Thorburn wanted to utilize a wider range of African American people.

“We wanted to see if these beliefs were related to condom use and the spread of HIV/AIDS [among African Americans] today,” said Thorburn who also stated that the group gained funding from the National Institute of Child Development.  

The question the group asked was: Are HIV/AIDS conspiracy beliefs a barrier to HIV prevention among African Americans? The Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS) explained in a press release that the objectives of the study were to examine “endorsement of HIV/AIDS conspiracy beliefs and their relations to consistent condom use and condom attitudes among African Americans.”  

There were telephone surveys with a random sample of 500 African Americans aged 15 to 44 years and living in the United States. The theory was that because a significant number of African Americans believe this conspiracy, then the result is that they are less likely to use condoms and less likely to practice precaution against contracting the HIV/AIDS virus.

JAIDS also released that the study revealed a vast majority of those interviewed believed in the conspiracy, especially men. Among the men, conspiracy beliefs were actually associated with more negative condom attitudes and inconsistent condom use independent of “selected socio-demographic characteristics, partner variables, sexually transmitted disease history, perceived risk, and psychosocial factors.”  

The facts have shown that due to this HIV/AIDS conspiracy belief, especially among black men, attitudes toward condom use have waned. RAND reported, “59 percent agreed with the statement that a lot of information about AIDS is being held back from the public, 53 percent agreed that there is a cure for AIDS, but it is being withheld from the poor, nearly 27 percent agreed that AIDS was produced in a government laboratory, about 16 percent agreed that AIDS was created by the government to control the black population, and about 15 percent agreed that AIDS is a form of genocide against African Americans.” 

Bogart, pointed out that the study highlighted the “substantial mistrust of the health care system among African Americans.” However, the bottom line is: What does it all mean? Ultimately it means that the government has proof that African Americans are hesitant to place their health care over to Uncle Sam.  

JAIDS concludes, “To counter such beliefs, government and public health entities need to work toward obtaining the trust of black communities by addressing current discrimination within the health care system as well as by acknowledging the origin of conspiracy beliefs in the context of historical discrimination.”  

Danielle Palmer, a senior psychology pre-med major countered, “If the conspiracy has gone on for this long why would the government care now? Just because there is evidence does not mean our health care needs and concerns will ever truly be met and addressed.”