Poll indicates HIV/Aids prejudice

Nearly a quarter of people think drug users who contract HIV or Aids through infected needles should not receive treatment on the NHS, according to a new survey by Marie Stopes International.

The NOP poll of 2,000 people representative of the British public was conducted for Marie Stopes and sexual health charity Interact Worldwide to highlight World Aids Day today.

The results show that, 20 years into the pandemic, many British people are still prejudiced against those with Aids or HIV and ignorant of the risks.

A total of 41 per cent believe that asylum seekers should not be allowed to stay in the UK if they have Aids or HIV, and 26 per cent believe they should be told if someone in their community carries the virus. Around 60 per cent admitted they would have more sympathy for someone who contracted the disease through a blood transfusion than through promiscuous sex.

Patricia Hindmarsh, Marie Stopes International's external relations director, commented: "This shows that people are making judgements and assigning 'blame-worthiness' in their response to the disease. Aids doesn't discriminate - people do."

This view is backed up by the fact that 21 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: "It's people's own fault if they get Aids or HIV." There is still a common misconception that HIV/Aids only affects minority groups such as gay men, drug users and prostitutes. Nearly half of those questioned think they are not at risk.

Ros Davies, chief executive of Interact Worldwide, said: "The latest figures from the World Health Organisation 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."

Both charities are now calling for a government-funded campaign to improve public awareness. Hindmarsh added: "The last significant campaign was in the mid-1980s and two generations of young people have become sexually active since then. This should be a priority."

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