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Salud mental

versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325


FLORES PALACIOS, Fátima  e  ALBA, Martha de. El SIDA y los jóvenes: un estudio de representaciones sociales. Salud Ment [online]. 2006, vol.29, n.3, pp.51-59. ISSN 0185-3325.

The AIDS phenomenon by its own characteristics represents an object of study that requires a múltiple approach and treatment with various methodologies. By its own nature it propitiates a number of emotions, behaviors and attitudes linked to different social representation registers from the different groups, thus allowing to delineate this phenomenon through assessments and stigmatized moral judgments that structure specific practices towards AIDS.

To analyze a social representation implies to acknowledge the social behavior as a system by consensus of social groups, where diverse representational systems are articulated. A social representation is a social-cognitive mental process through which collectives explain their reality, cover it with affective elements, and give it a coherent meaning in thought structure.


To find the social representation about AIDS that college young students from the State of Morelos have built, and also to find the media impact on this representation.


Four hundred students from a public university, aged between seventeen and twenty five, participated. An open ended questions and multiple choice questions questionnaire was used. It was self administered. Participants gave informed consent. The questionnaire was organized in three main areas: social representation of AIDS; sexual practices; and media and AIDS. Analysis was made according to each of the defined categories. Two kinds of analysis were done: quantitative, for the multiple choice questions, using the statistical computer program SPSS; and evaluative-qualitative for the open ended questions, using the computer program ALCESTE, complemented with an analysis of contents.


Two interaction ambits were found in the symbolic construction of AIDS: one end of its representation is defined by specialized knowledge; the other by a common sense knowledge about the illness, particularly about its contagion and prevention.

Fear of contagion, insecurity, and feelings of sexuality control are present and, therefore, certain moral assessment components are considered, particularly when refering to behaviors based on faithfulness or even on abstinence itself. Even if it is true that students don't consider AIDS as an illness exclusive of homosexuals and sexual service workers, they still think that these are the groups in highest risk of contagion.

On the other hand, males interviewed in this sample give high importance to the risk of contagion when it comes to evaluate AIDS as a public health problem that concerns the young. Their second worry is drug use. For women, the main concern is based on the risk of pregnancy, which shows a clear gender structure related to their role as procreators.

These registers constitute the subjective platform from which young people build their representations. It can be observed that the media, and the information strategies used to date, have had a still limited influence level which hasn't hit the social representation of this pandemic in a way to create specifically a greater awareness about the illness and to induce protective behaviors.


The young people's attitude towards the pandemia is to keep distant and it shows an almost null level of involvement regarding this problem. Also, they report fear of contagion, insecurity, feelings of sexuality control and a scale of values that interferes with their own freedom when it comes to behaviors based on faithfulness or on abstinence itself. These two registers constitute the subjective platform on which young people act and where it can be concluded that the media, like the information strategies used to date, have emphasized a change of attitude and given information which have no influence on the social representation of AIDS in a way to induce protective behaviors.

It is essential to define strategies that consider subjective and emotional elements that operate outside the attitude towards AIDS. It is not enough to remain with the evidence of these results. It is of uttermost importance to consider the process and mechanisms through which a certain kind of attitudes have been chosen as those that prevail are not enough to modify the representational structure that, in the end, sets up the collective behavior systems.

Palavras-chave : Social representation; young people; HIV/AIDS; media.

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