Thirty years after the discovery of the virus, research from the National AIDS Trust reveals that nearly a third of gay men wrongly believe that if you are living with HIV you would be banned from working as cabin crew.
In a survey of 2,282 gay men, less than half (43%) were aware that post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) – emergency treatment to prevent HIV transmission – can be taken up to 72 hours after risk.
PEP is not guaranteed to always work but has a high success rate.
However, NAT warns that too many men remain unaware of its availability.
Only 39% of men could correctly identify from a list of options, the description of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – a method of preventing HIV transmission, where someone takes an anti-HIV drug before taking part in any activity that might expose them to the virus.
At the moment in Britain PrEP is considered an experimental prevention method, although it is available in the US.
The survey also revealed that nearly a third of gay men (33%) believed that if you are living with HIV you would be banned from working as cabin crew, a chef or with people with mental health problems.
In fact the only job someone with HIV can’t do is work in the front-line armed forces – which is the same for anyone with a long-term medical condition requiring daily medication.
NAT said young gay men (16-24) were the least informed when it came to HIV. Those aged 16-24 consistently knew less than men aged 25-54. New HIV diagnoses amongst gay and bisexual young men have doubled over the past ten years.
Eleanor Briggs, Assistant Director of Policy and Campaigns at NAT said: “Thirty years since the discovery of HIV, more needs to be done to ensure that gay men understand the advances in HIV prevention. Knowledge gaps around PEP and PrEP mean that gay men may be missing out on opportunities to protect themselves.
“Given the increasing number of young gay men diagnosed with HIV, NAT wants to understand where and what young gay men are learning about sex, relationships and HIV so we can make sure they have the knowledge and support they need.”
However, the research did show that gay men understand far more about the realities of living with HIV than the general population. 80% of gay men, compared to only 16% of the general population, knew that someone living with HIV, diagnosed on time and on effective treatment can have a normal life expectancy.
NAT is conducting a new nation-wide survey which aims to better understand where young gay and bisexual men learn about sex, relationships and HIV.
The survey is now open and NAT are looking for as many gay and bisexual men, aged 14-19, as possible to take part. For more information click here.