Black Women College Students and the Stigma of HIV

New research from scholars at North Carolina State University and Pennsylvania State University found that African American women college students were reluctant to use online sites related to HIV prevention because they feared their social network may become aware they were accessing HIV-related materials.

Cobb-PaytonFay Cobb Payton, a professor of information technology at North Carolina State University and lead author of the study stated, “we assumed that providing information about HIV prevention online would be an effective way of reaching Black female college students. We thought it would resonate and be accepted, and we were wrong.”

Researchers held focus groups with a large group of Black women college students to ascertain the type of information that they might find useful regarding HIV prevention. Researchers then set up a website that included the information Black women said would be valuable. But later, the researchers discovered that the Black women were reluctant to use the site.

Dr. Payton reports that “stigma by association was playing a significant role in limiting their use of our social media tools. There was a fear that engaging with the information would lead peers to think they were HIV positive.”

Dr. Payton holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA from Clark Atlanta University and a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She earned a Ph.D. in information and decision systems from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She is the author of Leveraging Intersectionality: Seeing and Not Seeing (Richer Press, 2014).

The paper, “Online Health Awareness and Technology Affordance Benefits for Black Female Collegians – Maybe Not: The Case of Stigma,” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. It may be accessed here.


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