AIDS, FRAIDS, and Quarantine: Student Responses to Pro-Quarantine Initiatives in California



In the literature on AIDS, only a few empirical social reactivist studies of heterosexuals have been done, probably due to the preoccupation with explaining the incidence of AIDS among high-risk groups. The following study of 563 students enrolled in a large Southern California university adds to the heterosexual student literature by operationalizing an important research variable, FRAIDS, and by embarking on explanatory analysis of attitude and self-reported behavior. FRAIDS, which we will define as the fear of getting AIDS from casual contact sources, may be helpful in explaining both high-risk sexual behavior among heterosexuals and pro-quarantine sentiment. However, only the subsets of the FRAIDS variable (FRAIDS-dry and FRAIDS-wet) proved explanatory. FRAIDS-dry (fear of HIV infection from dry sources) proved significant in explaining sexual activity, while FRAIDS-wet (fear of HIV infection from wet casual contact sources) was found significant in explaining pro-quarantine sentiment. The converse was not true. Using homophobia as a control variable, homophobia was found to overshadow FRAIDS-wet for males but FRAIDS-wet rivaled homophobia in predicting pro-quarantine sentiment for females. Growing quarantine sentiment was noted among the students, as the survey took place during two different time periods (Fall of 1986 (N= 375) and Spring of 1988 (N= 188)), essentially before and after the actual vote in November 1986 on a pro-quarantine initiative (Proposition 64) that appeared on the California ballot. This apparent increase in pro-quarantine sentiment among students (and voters) highlights the need for attention to homophobia as well as detailed discussion of the fear of wet casual contact in AIDS education.