People STILL Believe You Can Get HIV From Kissing

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
Today is World AIDs Day. Established way back in 1988, World AIDS Day is a time for everyone to come together to remember those we've lost to the disease and to show their support for those living with HIV/AIDS. It's also a day to raise awareness and reduce the lingering stigma related to a disease that currently affects an estimated 34 million people globally. According to a new U.K. survey, we still have a way to go on that front.

The survey, which was performed by the Terrence Higgins Trust and YouGov, included responses from 2,030 people in Great Britain and found that many of them still believe 1980s-era false information about AIDS and HIV.

For example, the survey found that 20% of respondents (one in five) falsely believed that the virus can be transmitted via kissing. About a third of respondents falsely believed that you can be infected with the virus by sharing a toothbrush with someone who is HIV-positive. It can only be spread by contact with blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Most often HIV is spread through sexual activity or shared needles.)

Many survey participants also had an incorrect idea of the way the virus affects patients. For example, thanks to advances in treatment and technology, having HIV doesn't necessarily mean patients will die young. But about 40% of respondents didn't know that. Only 29% knew that people receiving effective treatment for HIV can have children without passing on the virus. And only 39% were aware that effective treatment made it possible for those with HIV to have sex without transmitting the virus.

So maybe in honor of this year's World AIDs Day we can lose the stigma — and the myths.
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