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HIV sexual risk behaviors and perception of risk among college students: implications for planning interventions Essay

Final Project Proposal


            Since its discovery in 1983, scientists have worked tirelessly on determining the origins and biological mechanisms of the HIV virus. The gravity of the HIV virus cannot be understated as approximately 25 million people have contracted HIV and developed AIDS since the discovery of the virus. During the progression of knowledge surrounding the virus, statistical analysis of HIV related data displays regional, socioeconomic, and racial inconsistencies regarding HIV infection. From a global perspective, the discrepancies in HIV prevalence between wealthy and low income countries are unsettling to say the least. For instance, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for approximately 2/3 of 34 million individuals currently living with the HIV virus. Superficial analysis of such statistics might invite one to presume that African sexuality must account for this large discrepancy, however, to develop a complete and nuanced understanding of the epidemic, it is important to delve into the specifics of resource allocation, gender inequalities, and access to adequate medical care. Similarly, a superficial analysis of HIV statistics might cause one to believe HIV epidemic largely affects only middle and low income countries and need not be extensively discussed within developed nations. Such lines of thinking fail to address the fact that international connectivity through economics and travel make the HIV virus capable of permeating national borders.

            Due to the international risk posed by the virus, it is crucial that scientist and policy makers from high, medium, and low income countries make a collective attempt to understand the root causes of HIV infection discrepancies. By understanding inconsistencies in HIV infection, one is then able to appropriately address the issues he or she has identified. What is important to note is that approaches to specific issues exacerbating HIV infection discrepancies may have to be altered for respective communities. In the same way ,one must understand factors accounting for HIV infection inconsistencies, one must similarly note that the nuances of a given community will significantly impact the efficacy of a prevention mechanism. Although the nuances of a given community may differ, we propose that the majority of root causes associated with increased risk of HIV infection are maintained irrespective of national borders. For the purposes of our research, we hope to analog the potential factors leading to increased risk of infection within African communities as well as marginalized subpopulations within the United States, specifically on the Williams College Campus. For all intents and purposes, the research we conduct at Williams College cannot wholly reflect all college campus environments, however, we anticipate that our research will provide an analytical and informative way of understanding increased risk of marginalized subpopulations.

            To ensure an indebt analysis, we will be discussing the role of gender dynamics in increasing an individual’s risk to HIV infection. Specifically, we aim to observe whether there is a correlation to gendered sexuality and increased risk behaviors. Utilizing the piece written by Patrica McFadden, we have come to understand the correlation between sexuality and power, and how the lacking focus on female sexuality has consequently limited their power. Given the previous statement, one can then presume that the inflation of male sexuality has drastically altered the power dynamic between the two sexes. Our research at Williams College will highlight possible restrictions on female students may disallow them from protecting themselves. For instance, a female student may not feel comfortable insisting upon contraceptive, and this inability to insist upon contraceptive significantly increases her likeliness of infection. Within a setting such as Williams College, one might inquire how an individual would not insist upon protection given the literature surrounding the HIV virus. To answer this question, one has to acknowledge that stigma and cultural surveillance are powerful deterrents to women taking the sexual initiative. The cultural reinforcement of passive female sexuality, thus the de facto male sexuality is dominant. Since only the male sexuality is acknowledged as dominant, the male will be considered the actor who ultimately initiates and determines the details of the sexual encounter. A potentially interesting point of inquiry would be to get an understanding of to what extents females and males on the Williams campus relate to typified gender sexualities.


            The survey was generally short and involved three questions. The first question that we asked was in regards to how many students that people think are infected with HIV/AIDS on campus. The choices available to the respondents were “there is no HIV/AIDS on campus”, “1 to 3 students”, “4 to 10 students”, “10 to 30 students” and “30+”. According to the results of the survey , Black Men answered that there were more than 4 cases of HIV/AIDS on this campus. Among all the groups involved in the survey¸ Black Women were the only group to answer that they believed that over 30 students were infected by HIV/AIDS. On their part, white women were of the idea that there were less than 10 HIV/AIDS cases on campus. Neither White Men nor White Women answered that there were over 10 cases of HIV/AIDS, and comparatively no Black Women or Black Men answered that there was no presence of HIV/AIDS on campus.

            The second question that we asked was, “whose responsibility it was to bring the condom to a sexual encounter;” the choices were “both have an equal responsibility,” “you,” “your partner” or “neither has a responsibility”. According to the results of the survey, White Men was the only group that responded that it was their responsibility to bring the condom to the sexual encounter. On their part, black women responded that it was the duty of their partner.all the respondents were more likely to answer the choices where they have some sort of control . Black Men and Black Women believed that it was the man’s responsibility to bring the condom, whereas both White Men and White Women answered that it was their own responsibility to bring the condoms.

            The third question that the respondents were asked during the survey was ,“whose responsibility is it to insist on condom use” and the answer choices were the same as the second questions’. The most popular response among both black and whites was,“both have responsibilities,”.However the genders did align but they were different from each other. Black Women and White Women answered only with the choices where they had control of insisting on condom use. Black Women were 23% more likely than Black Men to answer that it was their responsibility to insist on condom use and White Women were 9% more likely than White Men to answer that it was their responsibility. Black Men was the only group to answer that it was their partner’s responsibility to insist on condom use.

            The fourth question that was asked during the survey was, “if you and a partner you just met are engaging in sexual activity and they do not want to use a condom, what do you do?” The answer choices were “insist on condom use while still engaging in non-penetrative sexual activities”, “Start off insisting on condom use but eventually give in to having unprotected sex”, “Outright refusal to engage in any further sexual activity unless they agree to use a condom” or “Have sex without a condom, no protest”. Black Women was the only group to refuse sex outright if their partner did not agree to use a condom and in general. Although White Women were most likely to insist on condom use, a large proportion of them also answered that they would refuse outright. Black Women were 40.25% more likely to refuse outright than Black Men and White Women were only 11.5% more likely than White Men to refuse outright.

            The fifth question was similar to the fourth question, but unlike in the fourth question, all groups answered that they would engage in unprotected sex. However, the majority of Black Men and Women and White Women still insisted on condom use – 56%, 64% and 63% respectively. White Men were the only group whose majority chose to have unprotected sex at 63%. Black Women and White Women had very similar percentages for insisting on having protected sex. However, Black Women was more likely than White Women to engage in unprotected sex, with no protest ,while White Women was more likely to start off insisting on condom use and eventually give in.

            The sixth question asked about how strongly the respondent felt that they had control and could voice their opinion in a sexual encounter, and a Likert Scale was used (1= Strongly Disagree to 5= Strongly Agree) to gauge the responses. All races felt very strongly that they had control and could voice their opinion in a sexual encounter, but Black Men and Black Women were the only groups to answer with 3, which indicates a neutral feeling. A significantly larger proportion of Black Women than White Women, 11.6% more, answered with the highest choice of 5, which indicates strongly agree.


1. Jozkowsk, Kristen N., and Sonya A. Satinsky. “A Gender Discrepancy Analysis of Heterosexual Sexual Behaviors in Two University Samples.” (2013): Web.

This source provided us with a experimental study exploring the sexual activities on a college campus. We may use this source to model out own experiment on a smaller scale, and this experiment similarly allows us to analyze sexual behaviors on other college campuses which may mirror Williams college.

2. Adefuye AS, Abiona TC, Balogun JA, Lukobo Durrell M: ” HIV sexual risk behaviors and perception of risk among college students: implications for planning interventions. BMC Public Health 2009, 9:281.

This source allows us to again follow a experimental model tracing high risk behaviors on college campuses around the nation. In an ideal world, we will see possible trends that we can use to draw analytic conclusions about gender dynamics. Before we can address race and gender, however, it is important that we understand the types of behaviors we need to watch for within our own studies. Another positive aspect of the source is that it delves into racial dynamics of the HIV infection.

3. Mathes, Eugene W. “Why is there a Strong Positive Correlation between Perpetration and being a Victim of Sexual Coercion? an Exploratory Study.” Journal of Family Violence 28.8 (2013): 783-96. ProQuest. Web. 10 Nov. 2013.

When we discuss gender dynamics, it will be important to outline sexual coercion which may expose students to high risk behaviors.

4. Ahmed, Aziza. “Feminism, Power, and Sex Work in the Context of HIV/AIDS: Consequences for Women’s Health.” Harvard Journal of Law and Gender. 34:1 (2011)

This article provides background surrounding the stifled sexuality of women around the globe and how this stifling of sexuality robs women of their presence within the sexual landscape. Without sexual freedom, women are unable to excise their power, thus, they may not have the voice to protect themselves sexually. We aim to observe whether this restriction can be observed on the Williams campus.

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