Medical College of Wisconsin
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A Quantitative Study of the Accuracy of College Students' HIV Risk Estimates Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research Volume 5, Issue 1, pages 1–25, January 2000




A mathematical model of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) transmission was used to investigate the ability of college students (N= 162) to accurately estimate the risk of transmission for a variety of scenarios, which varied by HIV prevalence, number of sex partners, number of acts per partner, and the use of condoms. In addition, respondents' perceptions of their own lifetime risk of acquiring HIV were compared with the risk faced by similar referents. Participants badly overestimated the per-act transmission probabilities; all of their estimates differed from corresponding epidemiological estimates by a factor of 10 or more. It appears that their inflated estimates of the cumulative probability of transmission for multiple acts of intercourse were driven by their excessive overestimates of per-act transmission probabilities.

Author List

Steven D. Pinkerton, Lynne I. Wagner-Raphael1, Catherine A. Craun, Paul R. Abramson


Catherine Ferguson MD Director, Associate Professor in the Pediatrics department at Medical College of Wisconsin