New figures from the National AIDS Trust’s Public Attitudes Towards HIV Survey released today show that the UK population is becoming more ignorant about HIV.
6% of those surveyed were able to correctly identify all of the ways HIV is transmitted, without any false responses.
21% did not identify unprotected sex between a man and a woman as a way of contracting HIV. In 2000 just 9% did not identify this route.
In 2007 over a quarter of British people (26%) did not know that unprotected sex between two men is a way of contracting HIV, a sharp rise from 12% in the 2000 survey.
The survey, the third of its kind since 2000, found a big increase in two years in the percentage of people who would only stop using condoms in a relationship “once we’ve both been tested for sexually transmitted infections and HIV,” up from 12% in 2005 to 24% in 2007.
Another 24% said they do not use a condom with a new sexual partner as a matter of course.
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, said:
“In recent years we have witnessed knowledge and understanding about HIV decline at the same time that HIV diagnoses have reached an all time high.
“By 2010 there will be over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK if current trends continue.
“We cannot afford to be complacent about HIV education.
“Ignorance about HIV increases vulnerability to infection and also contributes to stigma and discrimination.”
She called on the government to re-invest in educating the public about HIV.
Last year NAT revealed that one in ten gay men in London is HIV+, just as a reduction of £650,000 spending on the London Gay Men’s HIV Prevention Programme was proposed by London’s Primary Care Trusts (PCTs).
They want to switch funding for gay men’s projects to pay for prevention work in black African communities.
Despite assurances that the cuts would not go ahead, after protests from gay groups, it is still unclear if the PCTs will reinstate funding.
The NHS oversight committee has urged all local NHS trusts to reverse the cuts, although there are no guarantees this will happen.
In the NAT survey 71% agreed more needs to be done to tackle prejudice against people living with HIV.
48% said that people who become infected with HIV through unprotected sex only have themselves to blame.
At the end of 2006 73,000 people were living with HIV in the UK. There were 7,800 new infections in 2006. Estimates suggest one in three infections in the UK are undiagnosed.
The survey was conducted by Ipsos MORI between 15th and 22nd November, 2007.
A nationally representative quota sample of 1,981 adults aged 16 and over was interviewed throughout Great Britain.
Data has been weighted to the known population profile of Great Britain.
Full results of the survey are available for download from www.nat.org.uk