Misconceptions Continue To Contribute to Discrimination Against HIV-Positive People in China, UNAIDS Official Says
People living with HIV/AIDS in China continue to experience discrimination based on public misconceptions of the disease, Bernhard Schwartlander, UNAIDS China country coordinator, said on Tuesday, Xinhuanet reports. Commenting on the results of a survey about HIV/AIDS-related knowledge and behavior among the Chinese -- which indicated that misconceptions and discrimination remain high despite years of public education efforts -- Schwartlander said that many people are unwilling to live with an HIV-positive person, or have meals or work with an individual living with the virus.
Xinhuanet reports that the survey of more than 6,000 students, white- and blue-collar workers and migrant workers found that 48% still believe HIV can be transmitted through a mosquito bite. It also found that although 80% of respondents know HIV can be transmitted through injection drug use or unsafe sex, 18% thought they could contract the virus through a sneeze or cough. In addition, when asked about their attitude toward an HIV-positive family member, nearly 16% said they would no longer contact or speak to the person, although more than 50% said they would encourage the relative to seek treatment and support. Schwartlander said, "These data are really a cause for concern," adding, "We see that there are still many misconceptions around AIDS among the population, which contribute to stigma and discrimination."
According to Xinhuanet, the survey also found that 57.2% of young respondents between ages 15 and 24 said they did not know how to correctly use condoms. Schwartlander said that this is a "worrying contradiction between knowledge and behavior." He added, "Though people know that HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sex, many still do not protect themselves with a condom when engaging in risky behavior." Xinhuanet reports that sexual activity is the most common mode of HIV transmission in China, with 19% of respondents reporting that they would use a condom if they had sex with a new partner.
The survey also found that half of respondents believed that HIV/AIDS was a serious problem in China but 88% regarded their chance of contracting the virus as zero. Furthermore, the survey suggested that more information about HIV testing is needed in the country.
The survey was conducted in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Zhengzhou and Kunming by the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the China HIV/AIDS Media Partnership; Renmin University; and UNAIDS (Xinhuanet, 11/18).