Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

November 1998


Published in: Nancy L. Roth and Linda K. Fuller, Editors, Women and AIDS: Negotiating Safer Practices, Care, and Representation (pp. 7–41). The Haworth Press, New York & London, 1998. Copyright © 1998 by the Haworth Press. Used by permission.


The HIV/AIDS epidemic represents an ever-increasing threat to Latino populations in the United States, with women being most affected by this deadly disease. In this chapter, we explore the challenges Latino women face as they attempt to reduce their risk of sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Our main interest lies in examining how the economic, cultural, and social realities of women's lives contribute to their risk of HIV infection and constrain their ability to reduce that risk. Because there is neither a cure for AIDS nor a vaccination to block HIV transmission, prevention of infection is the main objective of the global AIDS strategy (WHO, 1992). Discussions of HIV prevention among women typically emphasize the need to develop an unobtrusive female-controlled method that kills HIV and other pathogens while permitting conception (e.g., Stein, 1990; Worth, 1989). However, development of such a method has remained elusive, and current prevention efforts focus largely on promoting consistent condom use, which has been identified as the most effective HIV prevention strategy other than abstinence or a lifelong mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner (Kaerningk and Bootzin, 1990; WHO, 1992). Secondary strategies such as reducing the number of partners appear to be less effective (Reiss and Leik, 1989), particularly when the risk status of partners is difficult to ascertain.