Online Survey Looks at Women, HIV in U.S.
HIV-positive women in the U.S. face stigma associated with the virus, according to the results of an online survey released Monday by the American Foundation for AIDS Research, CNS/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Krouse, CNS/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/31).
The survey was conducted online between March 22 and April 17, 2007, by Harris Interactive among 4,831 U.S. residents ages 18 to 44 who were willing to disclose their race. According to an amfAR release, one-fifth of the respondents said they would be somewhat or not at all comfortable having a close friend who is HIV-positive, and 59% said they would be somewhat or not at all comfortable with an HIV-positive woman caring for their children. Among the respondents, 68% and 57%, respectively, said they would be somewhat or not at all comfortable having an HIV-positive female dentist or physician. Only 14% of respondents said they believe HIV-positive women should have children, despite antiretroviral drugs that can prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission.
Black and Hispanic respondents were more likely to have an HIV-positive family member at 34% and 32%, respectively, compared with 13% of white respondents. About 40% of the respondents said they were sure they had not been tested for HIV. Eighty percent of these respondents said it was unnecessary for them to receive an HIV test because they "knew" they were not HIV-positive or did not believe they should be tested.
Most respondents supported expanded HIV testing, with 65% saying HIV testing should be part of routine health care. Sixty-seven percent of respondents incorrectly assumed they are screened for HIV during screenings for other sexually transmitted infections, and half of respondents believed pregnant women are automatically tested for the virus as a part of prenatal care.
The survey was funded by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the MAC AIDS Fund (amfAR release, 3/31).
Fears associated with contracting HIV, the belief that HIV is the result of promiscuity or moral failures and the severity of the disease all contribute to the associated stigma, according to participants at a conference on Monday in Washington, D.C., to release the survey (CNS/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/31). Susan Blumenthal, senior policy and medical adviser for amfAR, said that "[c]omplacency has obscured the changing face of" HIV and the "dramatic" increase in HIV infections among women in the past 25 years (amfAR release, 3/31).
A panel of HIV/AIDS advocates and experts at the conference said policymakers should increase efforts to improve HIV/AIDS education in an effort to reduce stigma (CNS/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/31). The survey's results "should serve as a wake-up call for action across all sectors of society," Blumenthal said, adding, "We need to intensify efforts for science-based education and policy to shatter the stigma that has surrounded this disease for all too long" (amfAR release, 3/31).
Regan Hofmann, editor-in-chief of POZ Magazine, said the government should increase comprehensive sex education to ensure people understand how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent the spread of the virus. Hofmann also discussed the importance of promoting safer-sex practices and discussing HIV with future partners. "Women are the ones living in secret," Hofmann said, adding, "Women are terrified, women of all colors, of all socio-economic statuses" (CNS/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/31).