- NEW YORK - In a recent survey of African Americans, more than
one-quarter said they believed that AIDS was caused by a man-made virus
developed by the federal government to kill black people.
- Anecdotal reports by healthcare workers
have indicated that many African Americans suspect that AIDS is part of
a federal government conspiracy, according to a report in the May issue
of the journal Preventive Medicine.
- In addition, reports in two prominent
black publications and discussion on a popular black television program
have suggested that HIV prevention programs are really part of a genocidal
government plan against African Americans.
- To investigate the extent of AIDS-related
conspiracy beliefs, Dr. Elizabeth A. Klonoff of California State University,
San Bernardino, and Dr. Hope Landrine of the Public Health Foundation asked
520 African American adults the following question: "HIV/AIDS is a
man-made virus that the federal government made to kill and wipe out black
people. How much do you agree with the above statement?"
- While the majority of the respondents
(50.8%) disagreed with this statement, 14.3% reported that they "totally
agreed" and 12.2% reported that they "agreed somewhat."
Another 23% reported that they were undecided.
- The researchers conducted the census
in middle- and working-class areas of San Bernardino County, California,
and participants were paid $10 for filling out the anonymous survey.
- Men were 3.5-times more likely to endorse
an AIDS conspiracy theory compared with women, an unexpected finding. In
particular, the researchers noted that respondents who were "culturally
traditional male college graduates who have experienced frequent racial
discrimination throughout their lives" were more likely to believe
in an AIDS conspiracy theory. They also found that conspiracy beliefs were
unrelated to income.
- Klonoff and Landrine suggest further
study, in part to determine if knowledge of the infamous Tuskegee study
is playing a role in HIV conspiracy beliefs among the black population.
In that study, conducted earlier this century, black men in the South were
not told they had syphilis or treated for the disease so researchers could
study the progress of the disease.
- The authors conclude that "AIDS-conspiracy
beliefs among blacks must be acknowledged and addressed in culturally tailored
AIDS prevention and education programs."
- "It is important to note that blacks
who endorsed ... AIDS-conspiracy views did not differ in their degree of
residential racial segregation, religiosity, or distrust of whites in general
... and so these issues may be less important in culturally tailoring programs
than blacks' cultural ties and experiences with racism," Klonoff and