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Determinants of Self-Perceived Risk for AIDS

Thomas R. Prohaska, Gary Albrecht, Judith A. Levy, Noreen Sugrue and Joung-Hwa Kim
Journal of Health and Social Behavior
Vol. 31, No. 4 (Dec., 1990), pp. 384-394
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136821
Page Count: 11
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Determinants of Self-Perceived Risk for AIDS
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Abstract

This paper examines self-perceptions of risk for AIDS and factors that contribute to estimations of risk. On the basis of a telephone survey of 1,540 adults age 18 to 60, we address the question: What heuristic factors predict perception of risk for AIDS? Results show that five heuristic categories determine self-perceptions of risk: sexual practices, moral evaluations of people with AIDS, emotional response to AIDS, protective actions in response to AIDS, and demographic characteristics. Number of sexual partners over the past five years and knowledge of sexual partners' past sexual behavior are associated significantly with increased perceptions of risk. Fear of AIDS and worry about one's health also contribute significantly to self-perception of risk, as does shame associated with having AIDS. Asian-Americans and persons with no particular religious affiliation report greater perceptions of risk. These findings call attention to heuristic factors in considering theories of risk and in designing interventions to change preventive actions associated with high risk for AIDS.

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