The Women, Risk and AIDS Project (WRAP) Collection

The WRAP collection consists of research materials from a ground-breaking social science research project which sought to understand how young women were negotiating sex, relationships, risk and pleasure following the emergence of AIDS. The collection includes 148 in-depth biographical interviews with young women aged between 16 and 21 in Manchester and London in the UK, carried out in 1989-1990. There are also as interviews with the WRAP project team and some of the original research materials such as the original questionnaire, participant information leaflet and two of the 'purple pamphlets' that were published at the time to share the WRAP research findings.  

The young women interviews cover 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. WRAP helped to define and problematise heterosexual cultures, profoundly influencing generations of feminist academics, as well as health practitioners, youth works and community development workers.

WRAP was a flagship social science research project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of a programme of AIDS and HIV research, commissioned to investigate changing sexual behaviour, practices and values in the UK. Mildred Blaxter, who led the programme, described the WRAP project as an example of ‘really brilliant qualitative work’, noting that ‘it was dreadful that it had to be AIDS that it was about, but all that money would never have come into it if it hadn't been AIDS, and if AIDS hadn't been the social problem at the top of the agenda’.

WRAP was led by a team of feminist sociologists, consisting of Co-Investigators, Janet Holland at the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education, and Caroline Ramazanoglu in the Department of Sociology at Goldsmiths College, in London, and in Manchester by Co-Investigator Sue Scott, a lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Manchester. Two researchers were employed on the project, in Manchester Rachel Thomson, and in London Sue Sharpe. 

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 project’s influence was secured through a forward-thinking approach to publication. The WRAP team worked with a small independent publisher, The Tufnell Press, run by Robert Albury, which specialised in critical educational research. Together they produced a series of purple pamphlets which were a rapid mode of dissemination of emerging findings, and the book The Male in the Head. 

In 1990 a further grant was secured through the Leverhulme Trust to support additional interviews with young men. A total of 50 young men aged 16-21 were interviewed in. These interviews will eventually be added to this site.

The full dataset is archived and available (where permissions apply) in the University of Sussex's institutional repository, Figshare. 

References

Virginia Berridge, AIDS in the UK: the making of policy, 1981-1994, Oxford University Press, 1996

 

How to explore the collection

  • Watch this short video below which highlights the ongoing intergenerational interest and significance of the original WRAP project. 
  • Then browse the interviews and other materials from the WRAP collection here, or by using the search box at the top of the page.