Risking for protection: discourses around 'safe sex' among Chilean, Turkish and second-generation Greek women living in Melbourne, Australia

Ethn Health. 1998 Feb-May;3(1-2):95-116. doi: 10.1080/13557858.1998.9961852.


The aim of this study was to identify the ways in which women from Turkish, second-generation Greek and Chilean backgrounds living in Melbourne, Australia, understand risks to their sexual health with a focus on STDs including HIV/AIDS. Data were derived from in-depth qualitative interviews with 20 women from each ethnic group (N = 60). Interviews were guided by a theme list, conducted in the woman's language of preference, tape-recorded and fully transcribed. Transcripts were double coded for key themes and analysed using ethnographic content analysis. The key findings are that for many women, reducing the risk of STDs to protect their physical health introduces risks to their social health and to the well-being of their family and community. Thus, women place priority over the protection of their social health as opposed to their physical health. Despite specific cultural differences in understandings of sexual health risks and illnesses, all women shared gendered commonalities in the ways in which they contextualise STDs within the wider context of social relationships and their everyday life. We conclude by arguing for interventions that specifically take into account social models of risk in STD and HIV/AIDS prevention and we consider the practical implications of this for harm reduction strategies in multicultural societies such as Australia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / ethnology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control*
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Chile / ethnology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Female
  • Greece / ethnology
  • HIV Infections / ethnology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sexual Behavior / ethnology*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / ethnology
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Turkey / ethnology