HIV/AIDS Remains a ‘Top Health Concern’ Among Americans 20 Years After First Case Reported, Survey Shows
Many Americans think HIV/AIDS is "one of the most urgent health problems" facing the United States today and see the disease as the "number one global health issue," a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released today shows. Nearly half of the 2,683 respondents said that HIV/AIDS is a "more pressing problem" today than it was a few years ago. "The fact that after 20 years so many Americans continue to view AIDS as one of the most important health problems facing our country today is a testament to the unflagging efforts of the HIV/AIDS community," KFF President Dr. Drew Altman said. "The AIDS Epidemic at 20 Years: The View From America" found that 26% of those polled think HIV/AIDS is the "most urgent" health problem facing the country, second only to cancer (35%). More than a third (37%) of those surveyed also ranked HIV/AIDS as the "most urgent" international health problem. Forty-three percent of the respondents said they know someone with HIV/AIDS or someone who has died of AIDS-related complications, 37% are "personally concerned" about infection, and 71% of parents are "worried" about their children's risk of infection.
Public Questions Government Response
The federal government is not doing enough to combat HIV/AIDS, according to two-thirds of survey respondents. More than half of those polled said schools and state and local governments need to do more to fight the epidemic. In addition, those surveyed said that HIV/AIDS prevention and education, vaccine research and treatment and care for those already infected should be "federal policy priorities." Ninety-seven percent of respondents said that school sex education programs should address HIV/AIDS, and 90% would include information about condom usage. Fifty-eight percent favor needle-exchange programs for intravenous drug users, and more than half (55%) said that the government is not spending enough on domestic HIV/AIDS programs, with another quarter saying the current spending level is "about right." Two-thirds of respondents support U.S. government aid to fight the disease in Africa, and 81% think pharmaceutical companies should lower their prices on AIDS medications in the developing world.
Youth & Minorities 'Personally Concerned'
The survey found that those "hardest hit" by HIV/AIDS are also those most concerned about the epidemic. African Americans and Latinos make up 12% and 13% of the general population respectively, but account for 47% and 19% of reported AIDS cases. Members of these groups are "much more likely" than whites (70% and 64% respectively, compared to 44%) to see HIV/AIDS as an "urgent problem." People under the age of 25, who account for half of all new infections, also showed concern. More than half said they are "personally concerned" about infection and cited HIV/AIDS as a "serious problem for people they know."
Most Americans Know AIDS Basics
Virtually all respondents (99%) are aware that HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse and through the sharing of intravenous needles, while 91% know that HIV can also be spread through unprotected oral sex. Nearly 90% are aware that AIDS has no cure, and 86% know about the existence of life-extending anti-AIDS drugs. Despite all of this information, 84% of those surveyed say people in the United States with HIV/AIDS still face "some" or "a lot of" discrimination and prejudice. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they would feel "uncomfortable" working with someone with HIV or AIDS (KFF release, 5/24). The full report is available at http://www.kff.org/content/2001/3026/. To learn more about the Kaiser Family Foundation's activities and other events surrounding the 20-year anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, including a timeline of the past 20 years, visit http://www.kff.org/docs/AIDSat20/.