Many Americans Believe More Funding Will Not Help Stop Africa’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic, New Poll Says
Although 74% of Americans support President Bush's proposal to spend $500 million over three years to prevent vertical transmission of HIV in Africa and the Caribbean, only 25% believe that inadequate funding is the "major reason" it has been difficult to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, according to a survey conducted jointly by Harvard University, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post. Researchers conducted telephone interviews with 1,042 randomly selected adults between June 13 and June 23. The following are results from the survey, as reported by the Post:
- Almost half -- 47% -- of respondents said that additional funding to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa would not lead to "meaningful progress," while 40% said it would. Only 34% of whites said additional money would help in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, compared to 62% of African Americans and 60% of Latinos.
- Thirty-one percent of respondents said the United States is spending "too little" on HIV/AIDS in developing countries, while 34% said the country is spending the "right amount" and 16% said it is spending "too much."
- Twice as many respondents said they did not want to increase the U.S. allocation to developing countries to $2 billion, as proposed by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, as said they were in favor of it. Still, 59% said they "needed to know more" about the proposal before confirming their opinions.
- Nearly two-thirds of respondents said that HIV/AIDS has reached "epidemic proportions," and 80% "correctly" said that Africa has been the "hardest hit" by HIV/AIDS. In addition, 67% of respondents said they expect the "worst is yet to come" for Africa.
- Eight in 10 respondents felt that HIV/AIDS in other countries would affect the quality of life in the United States. Nearly 50% said they felt the HIV/AIDS pandemic could "loose a flood of refugees" into the United States.
- Eighty percent of respondents said that Africans' "unwillingness ... to change their unsafe sexual practices" is one of the major reasons it has been difficult to control HIV/AIDS on the continent. In addition, 75% said that African governments "are not doing enough themselves to fight" HIV/AIDS, and 65% said poverty was a major hurdle for Africans in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
- Fifty-one percent of respondents cited HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment as a "high priority" for U.S. spending on health care in Africa, compared with 59% who said "dealing with problems caused by hunger" was a high priority, and 69% who identified insuring access to clean water as a high priority.
- Although 44% said the United States has a "special role" in funding the fight against HIV/AIDS in developing countries, 51% said that America has "no more obligation than other wealthier countries" (Morin/Deane, Washington Post, 7/6).
HIV/AIDS in America
The survey also found that many Americans think the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States is "over," Washington Post columnist Richard Morin writes. According to the poll, only 17% of Americans identify HIV/AIDS as one of the country's "most urgent health problems," down from 26% in a 2000 Kaiser poll. More than seven in 10 Americans correctly believe that there is no cure for AIDS, down from 89% just 18 months ago. But "more troubling," Morin writes, is the rise in the percentage of people who think there is a cure for AIDS. According to the new poll, 15% of respondents said they believed that a cure for AIDS exists, compared to 8% in the 2000 poll. African Americans are even "more misinformed," Morin writes, noting that 56% of African-American respondents said that there is no cure for AIDS, while 25% said that there is a cure. Among Latinos, 68% said there is no cure for AIDS, while 18% believed a cure was available. Forty-six percent of Americans said they are "not at all concerned" about contracting HIV, compared to 39% in 2000. According to Morin, part of the reason many Americans believe "things are getting better when they're not" is that HIV/AIDS does not "receive the same kind of news coverage today as it did 10 or even five years ago." Mollyann Brodie, vice president and director of public opinion and media research at Kaiser, said, "With this combination of AIDS becoming a less visible problem and declining media attention to issues of HIV in this country, it's perhaps not surprising that the public's concern about HIV has fallen and confusion risen" (Morin, Washington Post, 7/7).