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The social construction of immunity: HIV risk perception and prevention among lesbians and bisexual women

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At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, lesbians were often perceived as a high risk group for exposure to HIV infection. The construction of lesbians as women who engage in sexual activity with women, in conjunction with the assumption that the kinds of sexual activity lesbians engage in are not risky, has enabled this practice. This has, in turn, resulted in the failure to provide appropriate risk reduction education to this section of the population. Studies demonstrate that although many lesbians are generally well informed about HIV transmission and prevention, some are engaging in risk behaviours. In the context of institutionalized exclusion from 'risk group' categories, many lesbians appear to possess a false sense of security that they will not contract HIV, irrespective of their behaviour. This paper examines the processes whereby lesbians have been both included and excluded in AIDS discourse. In addition, the limited research on HIV risk taking and risk perception among women who have sexual contact with other women is critically examined.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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