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Gender-responsive programming has been proposed by some as a new opportunity for changing the United States’ HIV epidemic .The literature provides ample evidence of the challenges associated with heterosexual safer-sex communication and practices for women.When encountering a situation, people tend to resort to a particular sequence of events from a well-known situation (personally experienced or culturally emphasized) to guide their actions and decisions .In this paper, we explore heterosexual African American and Hispanic women’s beliefs about relationships with the aim of describing underlying schemas for romantic and other sexual relationships as well as identifying scripts that influence their views toward and behavior in such relationships.Within the relational schemas or cultural models, people collectively develop, share, enact, and internalize a variety of scripts that contain a representational knowledge regarding a predetermined sequence of events and actions .Part of this representational knowledge is descriptive and part is procedural.
Women were eligible for the epidemiological study if they: were born a female, self-identified as African American (AL and NC) or Hispanic (FL), were between 18–59 years of age (19–59 in AL due to age of majority laws in that state), reported vaginal or anal intercourse with a man in the past 12 months, were not previously diagnosed as HIV infected, were willing to be tested for HIV using rapid oral testing, were willing and able to give informed consent, and understood English (AL and NC) or either English or Spanish (FL).
With descriptive knowledge, the characteristics of events, interactions, and persons can be taken apart and analyzed (deconstructed) into episodic and semantic memories of specific past occurrences, and used to make sense of and act accordingly on similar experiences .
Conversely, procedural knowledge refers to the repertoire of rules and skills that automatically triggers information on how to proceed to either arrive at a particular goal or move towards a desired end state.
Interview transcripts underwent computer-assisted thematic analysis. Participants had a median age of 34 years (range 18–59), 34% were married or living as married, 39% earned an annual income of ,000 or less, 12% held less than a high school education, and 54% were employed. We identified two overarching relationship themes: contradictions between relationship expectations and desires and life circumstances that negated such ideals, and relationship challenges.
Within the contradictions theme, we discovered six subthemes: a good man is hard to find; sex can be currency used to secure desired outcomes; compromises and allowances for cheating, irresponsible, and disrespectful behavior; redefining dating; sex just happens; needing relationship validation.
Findings from the epidemiological study have been published elsewhere .