Sherry Pagoto

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. R. Wayne Fuqua

Second Advisor

Dr. Lester Wright

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


With the ever rising numbers of people becoming infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) as reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC, 1997) the need for preventing the spread of infection is clear. One promising intervention, based on a theory called social diffusion, involves training popular opinion leaders to act as behavior change endorsers within their community (Kelly, 1991). This study found 25-30% reductions in high-risk behaviors and 16-18% increases in safe sex behaviors in a male homosexual population as a result of this type of intervention. The current study examines the effectiveness of this intervention within a community of female college students.

Very few effects were found as a result of the social diffusion intervention. No evidence was found to support changes in safe sex behaviors. However, participants in the experimental group were more likely to perceive themselves as at risk for contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases after the intervention than the control group. Because the effects of this intervention in a female population was not as large as in a male homosexual population, the needs of women in HIV prevention interventions may need to be more closely examined.

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