Survey results from the U.K.’s National AIDS Trust (NAT) show that ignorance about HIV is a global problem.
The survey of nearly 2,000 people showed that a third of the public were in the dark about how HIV is transmitted.
“It is alarming to see just how many people believe you can get HIV from kissing, sneezing, or coughing,” said Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT in a statement. “Lack of understanding leads to stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV. This is taking us straight back to the early 80s – and this time we don’t have the excuse of not knowing better.”
Twenty-eight percent identified an incorrect path of transmission, while 45 percent of the population were able to identify all correct paths of transmission.
In addition, two-thirds thought that there was no way to prevent an HIV-positive mother from transmitting the virus to her unborn child and 25 percent did not know HIV could be transmitted by sharing needles, though the study notes this is an improvement over the 55 percent who did not know in 2010.
A startling number of people also said that they would be uncomfortable working with HIV positive people. Though the numbers have improved since 2010, about a third said they would be uncomfortable working with someone who had HIV and 37 percent said they thought employers should disclose a coworker’s status.
But the survey did have some good news. A majority of people have generally positive attitudes about people with HIV, with 79 percent agreeing that HIV positive people deserve the same support and respect as cancer patients. In addition, a majority of people said an HIV positive status would not affect their relationships with neighbors or family.
“Although there has been some modest improvement in attitudes in recent years, and a majority hold supportive attitudes to varying degrees, significant minorities do not,” said Gold. “And these minorities are large enough to make life difficult for far too many people with HIV.”
After releasing their findings, NAT called on the four governments of the U.K. to implement campaigns to fight against HIV stigma.
NAT also encouraged the general public to tweet a picture of themselves wearing a red ribbon on World AIDS Day to help combat stigma. Use #PutARibbonOnIt to add your photo to the campaign.