The impact of stigma, experience, and group referent on HIV risk assessments and HIV testing intentions in Namibia

Rachel Annette Smith, Daniel Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

People often perceive risks for others and themselves differently. This study examines whether personal beliefs about HIV and experience with those living with HIV influence personal risk assessments of contracting HIV in an interview sample of northern Namibians (N = 400), but not others' assessments as explained by singular-distribution theory [Klar, Medding, & Sarel (1996). Nonunique invulnerability: Singular versus distributional probabilities and unrealistic optimism in comparative risk judgments. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 67, 229-245]. Findings indicate that personal risk perceptions decrease with more HIV stigmatizing beliefs and increase with greater experience, but that those characteristics had no impact on assessments for others' risk. The study also examines whether the size and characteristics of the referent group, peers and the general Namibian population, influence others' risk assessments. Optimistic biases for personal risk versus others' risk appear with the highest discrepancy emerging between personal and general population risk assessments. Further, we found that personal risk perceptions did not mediate the relationship between personal characteristics, beliefs and experiences, and intentions to seek HIV testing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2649-2660
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume63
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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