Perceived Risk of AIDS: Assessing the Behavioral and Psychosocial Consequences in a Cohort of Gay Men

Jill G Joseph, Susanne B. Montgomery, Carol‐Ann ‐A Emmons, John P. Kirscht, Ronald C. Kessler, David G. Ostrow, Camille B. Wortman, Kerth O'Brien, Michael Eller, Suzann Eshleman

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131 Scopus citations


Longitudinal analyses reported here explored the relationship between a perceived sense of being at risk for AIDS and a variety of behavioral, social, and psychological consequences. Data were obtained from a cohort of 637 homosexual men living in Chicago, who are participating in a psychosocial study and have completed two waves of data collection. Their perceptions of risk were quantified using both an absolute and a comparative measure; these were combined into a risk index, scored from one to nine (x̄= 3.91; SD= 1.64). Univariate analyses demonstrated that level of risk was related to several measures of subsequent behavioral risk reduction. However, after adjustment for sociodemographic variables, initial behavior, and other components of a model predicting behavior change, this was no longer true. Of the 12 behavioral outcomes assessed, only one was related to risk after appropriate adjustment, and this relationship was negative. Other longitudinal analyses examined the impact of a sense of risk on measures of psychosocial functioning which have been theoretically linked to health behaviors and to measures of psychological/ social distress. These demonstrated a range of potentially adverse consequences for those who perceived themselves to be at greater risk for AIDS, including increased barriers to behavioral change, obsessive/compulsive behavior, social role impairment, and more intrusive worries and concerns about AIDS. Taken together, these results suggest that there is little or no observable benefit to an increased sense of risk, but that such a sense subsequently leads to distress and dysfunction in a variety of realms. The implications of these findings for development of policy concerning antibody testing of at‐risk populations is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-250
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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