AIDS and Behavior

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 812–821 | Cite as

Young Urban Women’s Patterns of Unprotected Sex with Men Engaging in HIV Risk Behaviors

  • Rachel JonesEmail author
  • Marsha Oliver
Original Paper


This study explored reasons women engaged in unprotected sex with male partners they distrusted and perceived to engage in HIV risk behaviors. Seven focus groups were held in public housing and neighborhood centers in the urban Northeast with 43 African American and Latina women. Content analysis was conducted by open and axial coding. Barrett’s theory of power as knowing participation in change and sex script theory guided interpretation. Results indicated that Patterns of Unprotected Sex is a usual practice to maintain hope, sensuality, intimacy, strategic gain, and stability with a male partner. In low power sex scripts the salient risks of HIV were buried under an awareness of oneself as having to satisfy a man and accept cheating. High power sex scripts involved women’s awareness of themselves as worthy of self care with diverse choices. High power scripts can be integrated into normative sex scripts as exemplars of more powerful ways of being and acting to reduce HIV risk.


Women HIV sexual risk Focus groups Power Sex scripts Sexual pressure Trust 



This study was funded by a RO3 grant, NR009349, to the first author from the National Institute of Nursing Research and a Busch Biomedical Research Grant from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. The authors gratefully acknowledge the women who shared their stories and those among them who practice and inspire others with their high power scripts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of NursingRutgers, the State University of NJNewarkUSA

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