Aids stigma alive and well in UK
The true scale of ignorance and lack of sympathy in the United Kingdom to people living with HIV and Aids has been revealed in a survey of British attitudes, released last Wednesday.
It suggests the stigma endured by those with the disease in Britain is as serious an issue as it is at the heart of the pandemic in Africa or Asia.
One-fifth of those polled said they believed it was people’s own fault if they got HIV/Aids. Almost a quarter said that drug users who contract the infection through shared needles should not get treatment on the National Health Service.
Twenty-six percent believed people had the right to know who in their community had HIV/Aids and 17% said they would worry if they knew their doctor had treated patients who were HIV-positive.
Sixty percent said they would have more sympathy for someone infected with HIV through a blood transfusion than from promiscuous sex.
“This is particularly shocking as it shows that people are making judgements and assigning ‘blameworthiness’ in their response to the disease. Aids doesn’t discriminate — people do,’’ said Patricia Hindmarsh of Marie Stopes International, who commissioned the survey of 2 000 representative adults with Interact Worldwide.
A large proportion (41%) thought that asylum seekers should not be allowed to stay if they had HIV/Aids. The survey shows ignorance about the virus — only 64% knew that babies can be infected in the womb, 73% knew you could get it from a blood transfusion, while 11% thought you could get it from kissing and 5% from eating with the same cutlery.
More than half (54%) thought homosexuals were at high risk, but only 26% thought heterosexuals were, even though the fastest increase around the world, including the UK, is now in the heterosexual population.
“The results show that many respondents are not aware that this is an issue for everyone,’’ said Ros Davies, chief executive of Interact Worldwide. “They still perceive HIV/Aids as a disease affecting only minority groups — gay men, drug users and prostitutes.
“The reality is that HIV/Aids should be an issue of concern to us all, especially young people. The latest figures from the World Health Authority and UNAids show that HIV infection is now the fastest growing serious health condition in the UK and many other countries across the globe, where women are particularly at risk of becoming HIV-positive. It’s clearly no longer the ‘minority’ disease it once was.’‘
The survey was published on World Aids Day, with the launch of a book of photographs by fashion photographer Mario Testino of women living with HIV from around the world. Testino, with fashion designer Kenneth Cole and actor Bianca Jagger, are spearheading a UK campaign called Fashion Fights Aids, which is backed by the United Nations Population Fund.—Â