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"It is astounding; it is a completely preventable infection," said Jones. "In New Jersey, we have the highest proportion of women living with AIDS in the United States."
Jones said she thought she had spent enough years working in urban health settings to be able to explain why young female patients engaged in unprotected sex despite the known risks, but that even she was surprised when she started looking for ways to change their behavior while earning a doctorate as a family nurse practitioner.
"I had very bright, wonderful patients who would come to me again and again with sexually transmitted infections," she said. She said the women understood that they were being exposed to HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, but engaged in unprotected sex anyway; even those who knew they weren't in monogamous relationships didn't insist their partners wear condoms.
"We have to normalize condom use," she said.
Jones said women experience pressure to have unprotected sex and that their partners often consider insistence on using a condom as sign of distrust.
"These relationship concerns can feel much more important in the moment for some women than reducing HIV/AIDS, which can feel more distant," she said.
At the end of the study, all the participants will get a DVD with all the soap opera videos, she said. The videos will also be available on the Web.
"If we know we're effective, we're going to dedicate ourselves to getting them out," Jones said.
On the Web:
Pilot video: http://www.stophiv.newark.rutgers.edu/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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