HIV stigma “fuels homophobia and discrimination”

Sophie Wilkinson April 6, 2009
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A new report released by Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) last week shows that some perceptions of HIV/AIDS have not changed in the past 20 years.

In 2006, 50 per cent of Americans surveyed believed that HIV/AIDS contributes homophobia and discrimination, according to the report authored by Ethel Klein.

This statistic has barely changed in 20 years. In 1986, 49 per cent of Americans believed that “fear of infection was causing discrimination against all homosexuals”, according to a poll conducted by Newsweek.

A disproportionately high number of HIV/AIDS sufferers are gay.

Klein has conducted an examination of public opinion poll data, which results indicate that there is still stigma attached to HIV.

However, the report does uncover some more positive statistics regarding public attitudes towards HIV and those living with HIV.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans would support higher government spending on HIV prevention and care. The seriousness of HIV/AIDS as a health issue was also recognised by those polled, with four out of five saying AIDS is a problem.

Americans consider cancer as the top health issue in the country, with HIV and heart disease “virtually tied” for second most important health issue.

The numbers of those saying they would be “very comfortable” to work with someone living with HIV or AIDS rose from 32 per cent in 1997 to 40 per cent in 2006.

Marjorie Hill, chief executive officer at the GMHC, said: “These findings reinforce two pressing needs of the HIV/AIDS community: our education efforts are limited and not teaching all communities at highest risk, and the public agrees that added resources are desperately needed to fight the epidemic”

A UK survey released last month suggested that one-third of people living with HIV experienced discrimination relating to their status in the last year.

The research from the Terrence Higgins Trust and the Department of Health showed that 36 per cent of the 1,777 respondents revealed they had experienced discrimination from family members, friends and health professionals.

The survey, carried out by Sigma Research, also found that discrimination was compounded by homophobia, racism or asylum and immigration-related prejudice.

Related topics: Americas

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