"Why i am not infected with HIV": Implications for long-term HIV risk reduction and HIV vaccine trials

Don C. Des Jarlais, Suphak Vanichseni, Michael Marmor, Aumphornphun Buavirat, Steven Titus, Suwanee Raktham, Patricia Friedmann, Dwip Kitayaporn, Hannah Wolfe, Samuel R. Friedman, Timothy D. Mastro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To describe beliefs about remaining HIV-seronegative in injecting drug users in two high-seroprevalence cities, and to consider implications of these beliefs for ongoing risk reduction efforts and for HIV vaccine efficacy trials. Design: Cross-sectional survey with open- and closed-ended questions. Subjects: 58 HIV-seronegative injecting drug users participating in HIV vaccine preparation cohort studies in New York City, New York, U.S.A., and Bangkok, Thailand. Major Findings: Large majorities of subjects in Bangkok (90%) and in New York (89%) believed their "own efforts" to practice safer injection methods and safer sex were very important in avoiding HIV infection. More Bangkok subjects (30%) believed that they would "probably" become infected with HIV in the future than New York subjects (4%). Three percent of Bangkok subjects and 70% of New York subjects believed "having an immune system strong enough to avoid becoming infected with HIV despite exposure to the virus" was very important in avoiding HIV infection. This belief in New York subjects was associated with having previously engaged in high-risk behaviors (i.e., sharing injection equipment, unprotected sex, or both) with partners known to be HIV-seropositive. Conclusions: Risk reduction programming for high-HIV-seroprevalence populations and within HIV vaccine trials should address not only specific HIV risk behaviors, but also the complex belief systems about avoiding HIV infection that develop within such groups. The person's "own efforts/self-efficacy" appears to be central in the psychology of risk reduction. Members of some high-risk populations may overestimate greatly the frequency of any possible natural immunity to becoming infected with HIV. Prevention programs for these populations will need to address explicitly the probabilistic nature of HIV transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)393-399
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1997


  • AIDS
  • HIV
  • Injecting drug users
  • New york
  • Risk behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Thailand
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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