AIDS Remains Unspeakable Subject for Many African Immigrants

Matthew Asare

As World AIDS Day approaches on Dec. 1, University of Cincinnati research is shedding light on cultures affected by the world’s highest rates of AIDS and HIV infections.  A study conducted by Matthew Asare, a native of Ghana, finds that among African immigrants, AIDS remains a major public health concern.
Asare surveyed over 400 African immigrants in Ohio to examine attitudes about AIDS/HIV and sex, subjects that are considered taboo for discussion in many parts of Africa, where HIV/AIDS infection and death rates from AIDS are the highest in the world.
Asare’s 64-question survey examined attitudes about condom use, monogamous behavior and sexual communication. He says 51 percent of the participants reported they had been sexually active in the past month but had not used a condom.
Out of the 412 people who answered a question about number of sexual partners in the month that the survey was conducted, 87 percent reported having sex with a single partner, while 12 percent reported multiple sexual partners.
“Polygamy is acceptable behavior in some parts of Africa, (and) … I wanted to examine attitudes about polygamy as this population adapted to a new culture in the United States,” Asare said. “The survey found that out of the 12 percent reporting multiple sexual partners, the majority of those respondents reported that they had not used condoms, nor had they discussed their sexual history with their partners.
“They also did not feel that they were susceptible to HIV or AIDS,” Asare said.
Asare added that men were more likely than women to initiate communication about sexual history, in part because African women felt that this communication, as well as initiating condom use, would cause mistrust in a stable relationship.
The survey found that some of the respondents when they were younger had open communication with their parents about sex, which made them more likely to open those channels of communication with their partner.