CHICAGO — A survey of 600 Chicago area residents finds a stubborn belief in conspiracy theories about AIDS, particularly among minority groups.
The research found:
• About a third of African Americans queried said they believe the government isn't telling the whole story of how AIDS is spread.
• Almost 20 percent of Mexican-American respondents said the government is lying about AIDS.
• And a little more than 1 in 10 black and Latino survey participants said they believe that the government is using AIDS "as a way of killing off minority groups."
The good news for the researchers: Believing in AIDS conspiracies does not seem to affect minorities' willingness to participate in HIV research trials. In fact, those questioned said they would be willing to volunteer at a higher rate than whites.
The numbers mirror previous studies showing minorities tend to believe in conspiracy theories about the origin of the human immunodeficiency virus at a higher rate than whites, say the researchers, led Dr. Ryan P. Westgaard of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
The level of mistrust among African Americans is likely tied to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, a 40-year government project that began in 1932 that followed black sharecroppers, some of whom had the sexually-transmitted disease, the report says. The government researchers never told the sharecroppers they had syphilis and did not treat them for it.
Setting up outside stores in what they described as "12 socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods" in the Chicago area, the researchers queried 201 African Americans, 190 Mexican Americans, and 196 whites participated. Among the city locations were the West Side, Downtown and Wrigleyville.
Researchers have traditionally had a difficult time finding minorities volunteering to participate in research. In the survey, though, some 58.9 percent of blacks said they were probably or very willing to participate in an HIV vaccine study. Among the Latino respondents, 49.7 percent expressed interest in such a study, compared with 38.3 percent of whites.
The government is lying about AIDS
African American: 18.6 percent
Mexican American: 19.6 percent
White: 14.8 percent
AIDS is part of a government plot
African American: 13.5
Mexican American: 11.2
I believe doctors and scientists when they say that you can't get AIDS through social contact
African American: 40.5 percent
Mexican American: 38.5 percent
White: 61 percent
The government is using AIDS to experiment
African American: 20.9 percent
Mexican American: 16.4 percent
White: 10.3 percent
The government is not telling us the whole story about how AIDS is spread
African American: 32.3 percent
Mexican American: 21.8 percent
White: 19.4 percent
The government is using AIDS as a way of killing minority groups
African American: 13.4 percent
Mexican American: 13.4 percent
White: 8.2 percent
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that HIV likely started in a type of chimpanzee in West Africa. The virus entered humans when hunters killed the primates for meat and came into contact with the animals' infected blood. The earliest detection in a human was discovered in a Congo man in 1959.
The research was reported in the recent issue of Journal of Internal General Medicine.