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Med Anthropol. 1992 May;14(2-4):145-223.

AIDS and promiscuity: muddles in the models of HIV prevention.

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  • Pomona College, Claremont, CA 91711.


AIDS has been blamed on promiscuity and the promiscuous, and a major goal of many HIV-prevention programs has been to induce people to reduce the number of their sexual partners. Despite the salience of this concept in the AIDS discourse of scientists, policymakers, the media, religious leaders, and the gay community, critical analysis of the role of promiscuity in this epidemic has been lacking. Following a review of promiscuity in various genres of AIDS discourse, this article discusses promiscuity in American society and in HIV-prevention campaigns. The relative risks associated with monogamy, abstinence and promiscuity are examined, and the author concludes that the partner-reduction strategy, instead of contributing to a reduction in HIV transmission has been an impediment to AIDS prevention efforts, exacerbating the problem by undermining the sex-positive approaches to risk reduction that have proven effective. Responsibility for this misguided strategy is attributed to a moralistic approach to AIDS and to the misapplication of epidemiological concepts and inappropriate social science models to the task of promoting healthy forms of sexuality.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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