Almost half of all African-Americans believe that HIV, the virus that causes Aids, is man-made, more than a quarter believe it was produced in a government laboratory and one in eight think it was created and spread by the CIA, according to a study released by Rand Corporation and the University of Oregon.
The paper’s authors say these views are obstructing efforts to prevent the spread of HIV among African-Americans, the racial group most likely to contract the virus.
Na’im Akbar, a professor of psychology at Florida State University who specialises in African-American behaviour, stressed that these views are grounded in experience.
Between 1932 and 1972 the federal government conducted experiments on 400 African-Americans in Tuskegee, Alabama. They were told they were being treated for syphilis but were allowed to sicken and die, and in some cases were actively denied treatment, until the experiment was exposed in 1972.
“This is not a bunch of crazy people running around saying they’re out to get us,” he said.