Women, Risk and AIDS Project (1989-1990)

Posted on 03.06.2020 - 14:06 by Sharon Webb

During the AIDS crisis of the late 1980s the ESRC commissioned a programme of social research investigating the sexual behaviour and values of the British population. One of these studies was the Women, Risk and AIDS Project, which sought to understand sex, risk and danger for young women. Led by feminist sociologists the project used interview methods with 148 women aged 16-21 living in Manchester and London between 1988-1990. The project was ground-breaking in documenting and problematising heterosexual cultures, shaping feminist health education responses. With the support of the Leverhulme Trust, the research was extended in 1991-2 to include interviews with 46 London-based young men. In addition to a range of articles the research was published in 1998 as a book (Holland et al.) The male in the head: young people. heterosexuality and power (Tufnell Press). In 2018 ESRC funding was secured to archive, share and reanimate this data set.


The interviews were conducted simultaneously in Manchester between 1989-90 by Rachel Thomson (research assistant and Masters student) and Sue Scott (co-applicant and lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Manchester) and in London by Janet Holland (Co-Applicant and Senior Researcher at the University at The Institute of Education, University of London) and Sue Sharpe (Freelance Researcher). Loosely structured interviews were undertaken with young women aged between 16 and 21 covering topics including how they learned about sex, friendships and romantic relationships, education and work ambitions, relationships with parents, knowledge of sexual risks including STDs, understanding of and access to contraception and experience of and confidence in negotiating safer sex. Participants were accessed through a range of entry points including workplaces, trade unions, youth clubs, schools and colleges. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. For most interviews there are also field notes made by researchers after the interview. The collection also includes ephemera such as questionnaires, leaflets, notes on sample etc. The collection includes anonymised materials [open] and non-anonymised material [closed].


This collection is related to the Reanimating Data Project (2018-20), an ESRC funded project.



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ES/R009538/1

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