Volunteers and paid workers who work within the areas of HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy with or within the African American community
Thompson, Anita Winfrey
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The African American population is one underrepresented group at disproportionate risk for contracting Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) in the United States. Another large social problem within the African American community with long-standing effects is the teen pregnancy phenomenon. It appears that there has been a differential response to these two issues within the African American community. Using in-depth interviews with forty-five HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy volunteers and paid workers, I examine this apparent discrepancy through the subjects’ perspectives and also compare these two groups among the three following dimensions: (1) motivations; (2) sources of stress and challenge and coping mechanisms; and (3) evaluations and suggestions for current programming. Generally, the data generated from this research indicate that the discrepancy in response to these two issues within the African American community has a lot to do with the issue of stigma. The data also indicate that, with regard to the workers and volunteers (often referred to as “front-liners”), the HIV/AIDS front-liners are more likely than the teen pregnancy front-liners to have been motivated to their work as result of some type of traumatic life experience related to the disease. Additionally, those working on the frontlines of HIV/AIDS seemed to experience more stigma in their work. Many of those working in the area of teen pregnancy also experienced conflict. However, most of this conflict had to do with decision-makers in school administration. Additionally, the data from this research highlight the views and perspectives of those on the frontlines regarding what does and does not work in programming with and within the African American communities. This work seeks to make a larger contribution on both theoretical and practical levels with regard to why people engage in what could be considered difficult work and what sustains them. It also aims to add to the literature on what effective means are for tackling these social problems within the African American community.