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The moderating influence of cognitive performance on risk awareness to predict HIV/AIDS risk-taking behaviors


The current study sought to explore the interaction between risk awareness and cognitive performance in predicting HIV/AIDS risk behaviors.

Materials and methods

This study uses data from the International Neurobehavioral HIV Study, an epidemiological examination of neuropsychological, social, and behavioral risk factors for HIV, HAV, HBV, and HCV. The current sample (N = 311) was limited to individuals who reported that they injected drugs within the last six months and that heroin was their drug of choice.


Among respondents with greater risk awareness, those with greater cognitive performance were significantly more likely to reduce their HIV/AIDS risk behaviors (OR = 7.8) than those with lower cognitive performance. However, risk awareness alone did not predict fewer HIV/AIDS risk behaviors.


This finding refines the application of the protection motivation theory by specifying that risk awareness alone is insufficient to predict protective behaviors. Above average cognitive performance combined with risk awareness reduced HIV/AIDS risk behaviors. Future research should explore the causal mechanisms linking the interaction between risk awareness and cognitive performance in predicting a reduction in risk behaviors.

Author information

Correspondence to MM Mitchell.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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About this article


  • Infectious Disease
  • Cancer Research
  • Great Risk
  • Risk Behavior
  • Cognitive Performance