Salud Pública de México
versión impresa ISSN 0036-3634
OBJECTIVE: To analyze the social representation of AIDS in a group of high school students aged 16 to 23 years in Mexico City. MATERIAL AND METHODS: A non-probabilistic, cross-sectional research was carried out in a public high school in Mexico City. Students of all grades were invited to participate in the study, which took place between 1999 and 2000. Forty-six students participated; 28% male and 72% female. This exploratory field study consisted of three phases, each to address one of three dimensions: cognitive using free association techniques, representational field using semi-structured interviews; and context attitude by means of two discussion groups. In the latter, the information was previously collected for discussion. RESULTS: The cognitive nucleus on AIDS included the association between sex, disease, and death. The representational field of AIDS is constructed around the transmission-prevention unit. Construct elements are virus, contagion, sex, protection, and condom. An ambivalent attitude was identified towards HIV prevention and transmission: "We are only half responsible". Situations such as "rape, blood transfusions, infected syringes"were prominent in the discussion group, deemed beyond their control to prevent transmission, thus explaining the group's ambivalent attitude towards prevention. The usefulness of condoms was associated with prevention of pregnancy rather than with prevention of sexually transmitted infections. CONCLUSIONS: The social representation of HIV/AIDS in young students conforms a multidimensional corpus where different elements of scientific order and common sense converge and interact, such as beliefs, myths, taboos, and fears. All of these contribute to construct the meaning of AIDS.
Palabras llave : Social representation; HIV/AIDS; youth; students; Mexico.