There is a number of themes that link the six stories about the adolescents who purposely exposed themselves to becoming HIV positive. One of these connecting themes is the fact that all individuals had some family members who were AIDS-infected (Social Psychology, n.d.). Whether those people were close and loved by the teenagers or not, their influence was apparent in all six cases (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). For example, in Belinda’s story, her mother was infected, and so were Brendon’s sister and her children. Azure’s mother, Chuckie-Dog’s brother, SueAnn’s father, Luen’s mother, and boyfriend all had AIDS. In some cases, the teenagers’ affection for their loved ones was their alleged reason for exposing themselves to HIV (Mulatu & Hussen, 2019). For example, in Luen’s story, she believed that she had met her boyfriend and became HIV positive for a reason and that her love for him was strong enough and worth not having any future.
Another theme that connects almost all of the stories is that many teenagers seem to have exposed themselves because they thought that being HIV positive, they would receive more help. This concerns both financial and medical help, as well as support and counseling (“Cultural based in peer education toward HIV prevention in teenagers,” 2020). This can be demonstrated by Belinda’s story; as she explains why she decided to “get sick too”, she says:
“Nobody wanted me when I was well. Now they’re going to need to take care of me and my siblings <…> Maybe not that I’m sick, I’ll be able to get the things I needed before, you know, the counselling and the assistance and the money I’ve asked for all these times and nobody could get me” (BESC1186 Social Psychology, p. 2).
Similar explanations are used by teenagers from other case studies as well. Brendon’s story is one of the examples. As people around him were pressuring him more and more about not getting a job and succeeding at anything, he realized that they treated his sick sister in a completely different way. He was extremely tired of both feeling the pressure and disappointing other people and decided to infect himself with AIDS (Morgan, 2012). As he explains his decision, he says:
“This AIDS things don’t make you sick at all, but people sure listen up when you talk. is getting good money from the feds <…> she ain’t got no need to worry ever again about nothing” (BESC1186 Social Psychology, p. 3)
It can be suggested that Chuckie-Dog’s decision to infect himself was also partly caused by his desire to change the way people treated him. Even though it was not driven by the intention to receive more money or counseling support, he did want his voice to be heard. As he tells about his interest in AIDS activism, he says he realized that “outside activists” were not listened to at any public discussions (BESC1186 Social Psychology, p. 7):
“If you ain’t been where you say, people don’t care what you think <…> The way I figure, now I can really get in people’s faces about how they invented the virus to make Black folks completely dependent on them <…> We can’t do anything without medicine, without government, and now they are setting limits on health care.” (BESC1186 Social Psychology, p. 7)
It is clear that all of these teenagers started seeing AIDS not as a burden and tragedy but as salvation and relief in many ways (Margaretha et al., 2017). They wanted to be heard, cared about, and treated with respect; these were all the things they had lacked in their lives (Rosenhan, 1991). Most of them had been caring for other people, such as their ill parents or other relatives, their whole lives, and AIDS seemed to them as a way to finally receive the care they deserved.
BESC1186 Social Psychology (n.d.), (Cases 1-6)
Cultural based in peer education toward HIV prevention in teenagers: A case study of teenagers’ HIV risk behavior in Bukittinggi city. (2020). International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 12(04).
Leedy, P. D., & Ormrod, J. E. (2005). Practical research: Planning and design. Prentice Hall
Margaretha, M., Martini, S., & Dewi, Y. S. (2017). Bio-psycho-Socio-Cultural approach training towards drug abuse and HIV-AIDS prevention among teenagers. Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium of Public Health.
Morgan, D. (2012). Practical strategies for combining qualitative and quantitative methods: applications to health research. Emergent Methods in Social Research, 165-182.
Mulatu, G., & Hussen, S. (2019). Exposure to HIV risk and utilization of HIV post-exposure prophylaxis among health professionals of governmental health institutions in Butajira town, Southern, Ethiopia. Journal of HIV and AIDS, 5(3).
Social Psychology. (n.d.). Lecture 5: Qualitative versus quantitative research.
Rosenhan, D. L. (1991). On being sane in insane places. Social Research Ethics, 15-37.