MAC AIDS Fund Survey of People in Nine Countries Finds Misconceptions, Stigma
A survey released on Tuesday by MAC AIDS Fund of people in Brazil, China, France, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the U.S. found misconceptions about the availability of a cure for HIV/AIDS and the consequences of the disease, as well as signs of stigma against HIV-positive people, Reuters Health reports. Nearly 50% of respondents in the nine countries said they would be uncomfortable walking next to an HIV-positive person, 52% do not want to live in the same house as an HIV-positive person and 79% do not want to date someone living with HIV/AIDS.
The survey involved 4,510 interviews with people in the nine countries (Brown, Reuters Health, 11/13). About 500 interviews in each country were conducted during a two-week period in September, Xinhua/China View reports. Respondents were surveyed via telephone or face-to-face in countries with limited phone access. The estimated margin of error is 4.4% with a 95% confidence level per country (Xinhua/China View, 11/13).
About 50% of survey respondents believed that most HIV-positive people are receiving treatment, although only about 20% of HIV-positive people worldwide are receiving antiretroviral drugs. College graduates in the U.K. were more likely than those without a college degree to believe that most people living with HIV/AIDS do not receive treatment, the survey found (Reuters Health, 11/13). About 76% of respondents cited lack of treatment as a continuing problem (Xinhua/China View, 11/13).
The survey found that 59% of people in India believed a cure for HIV is available. In addition, older adults in France and blacks in the U.S. were more likely than young people or whites to believe a cure is available (Reuters Health, 11/13). About 42% of people surveyed did not understand that AIDS is a fatal disease, according to the survey.
About 73% of respondents also said that the spread of HIV is fueled in part by women being uncomfortable discussing safer-sex practices with their partners. About 60% of respondents in all countries said "responsible" people could contract HIV, and 60% of respondents from Brazil, China and Mexico said acting "responsibly" will protect people from HIV infection. More than 25% of respondents said the virus could be contracted only through "sinful" behavior, the survey found.
Eighty-six percent of respondents said that stigma and shame associated with the virus are contributing to its spread. Respondents in China reported the most discomfort in working with people living with HIV/AIDS, followed by respondents from Mexico. More than 30% of respondents in the U.S. said they would be uncomfortable working with an HIV-positive person.
"Social stigmas ... are still limiting progress now," Nancy Mahon, executive director of MAC AIDS Fund, said, adding, "Understanding the insights from this new survey ... is what will help take us to the next level of policy, prevention and care in the fight against AIDS" (Xinhua/China View, 11/13).
Marsha Martin -- director of HIV/AIDS programs in the Oakland, Calif., mayor's office -- said the "most important general finding is that we have not done a good enough job educating people about HIV: the facts and reality." Geeta Rao Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women, said the "most important message" for health care workers is that they "serve as role models in their interactions" with people at risk of HIV to "reduc[e] stigma" (Reuters Health, 11/13).