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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Public Perceptions of HIV/AIDS

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Author Topic: Public Perceptions of HIV/AIDS
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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From the Kaiser Foundation Report this morning:

quote:
This Kaiser Public Opinion Spotlight uses data from Kaiser Family Foundation surveys and from other sources to explore the public’s level of knowledge and perceptions about HIV/AIDS, including areas such HIV transmission, prevention, and treatment, and which groups are most affected by the disease. Since the first few years of the U.S. epidemic, public knowledge about the disease has increased over time in many areas, but some significant misconceptions remain today.

In 2006, more than one-third of the public (37%) thinks HIV might be transmitted through kissing, 22% think it might be transmitted through sharing a drinking glass, and one in six (16%) think it might be transmitted through touching a toilet seat. More than four in ten adults (43%) hold at least one of these misconceptions. Misconceptions about HIV transmission are found in all segments of the population. For instance, while education does increase people’s level of knowledge about transmission somewhat, still 32% of college graduates held at least one misconception about HIV is transmitted.

In addition to misconceptions about HIV transmission, many adults also hold misconceptions about HIV prevention and treatment. In 2006, more than half the public did not know that having another sexually transmitted disease can increase a person’s risk of getting HIV (56%), and that a pregnant woman with HIV can take drugs to reduce the risk of her baby being infected (55%). Smaller shares did not know that there is presently no cure for HIV (14%) and that there are drugs that can lengthen the lives of people with HIV (13%).

In 2006, approximately half of new AIDS diagnoses in the U.S. are among African Americans, and the AIDS case rate among African Americans is significantly higher than for whites. Most Americans are not aware of the disproportionate impact of the HIV epidemic on African Americans. Just over a quarter say that African Americans are more likely than whites to be infected with HIV (a slightly higher share of African Americans themselves – 34%– say this is true), and only 12% name African Americans in an open-ended question about which groups are most likely to be infected (7% name minorities in general).

Treatment access is an issue even in the U.S., with the CDC reporting that about half of those who need antiretrovirals are not getting them. Americans perceive these access challenges, with seven in ten (70%) thinking that most people with HIV in the U.S. do not get access to needed medication. However, a majority (57%) believe that most people at high risk for HIV in the U.S. do have access to needed prevention services.

More than six in ten adults (61%) say that most of what they know about HIV/AIDS comes from the media, including radio, TV, and newspapers. In terms of the type of information they receive, many people say they would like to have more information about HIV/AIDS, particularly the different kinds of HIV tests available (44%), and how to protect their privacy 2 when getting an HIV test (40%). This is especially true for African Americans and Latinos, who are almost twice as likely as whites to say they would like more information about HIV/AIDS.

This is pretty scary ignorance, y'all. On the full report, you'll also note how few people know women are very hard hit by HIV/AIDS, or that worldwide, more than 90 percent of HIV infection is via heterosexual intercourse, not male-male sex. In fact, according to the CDC, right now AIDS is the LEADING cause of death in the US for African-American women aged 25-34.

So, what can we here at Scarleteen -- and we as people in general -- do to help people be more informed? Given how much of the ignorance is based in bias (about homosexual mean, about drug users, about young people, about people with multiple partners), how do we get people to overcome their bigotry to a degree where they can absorb the facts?

(And can we answer any of YOUR questions about HIV/AIDS?)

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Djuna
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This is really something that has to be addressed in schools with good sex education. The fact is that at this site we have about 31,000 thousand people out of 6 1/2 billion. While this site changes thousands of lives for the better, and I think it's a fantastic site, at present it's not going to change these kinds of statistics.
Short of us all petitioning the government to allow sex ed programmes other than the abstinence-only ones, there's not much we can do. I suppose we could get this site recommended in those schools that DO take sex ed seriously, but that again wouldn't amount to many schools.
In terms of HIV questions, I was wondering: what's the difference between HIV and AIDS? And in terms of STIs, if they're caught from someone else, how did the first person to get an STI catch it?

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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September
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Joseph - HIV is the virus, AIDS the disease. People who are HIV positive can live many many healthy years before the disease breaks out.


Education. People need to be educated. I remember a discussion I had on a different message board about which group was most susceptible to HIV and even after I backed up my statements with data from WHO, people still had a hard time believing that homosexual males were not the most at-risk group.

I saw an ad at my university just before I left for break about a local organization that sent people to schools to educate students about HIV and AIDS. As soon as classes start this fall, I am going to join this group and do some educating of my own.

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Johanna
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Heather
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Actually, we have more than that.

We have 31,000 registered at the boards, since the advent of them.

However, we have anywhere from 20,000 - 40,000 unique users at the whole of the site every DAY (some of whom are return users, usually to the boards, the majority of whom are not the same folks who return each day: regular board users are actually the smallest portion of our daily userbase). Board users compose our smallest userbase, not our largest.

Take a look at the report in full, joseph: one interesting thing you'll see is that of those polled, plebnty are well-educated, and most are older than teens, so ab-only issues aren't really a factor here, since most of these adults would have had sex education (if they did) before this time.

The difference between HIV and AIDS is that HIV is the virus which is transmissible. It is the actual infection. AIDS, however -- acquired immune deficiency syndrome -- is a syndrome which generally develops due to HIV. It is NOT infectious/transmissible, but it is generally what kills those with HIV, because AIDS destroys the immune system, so a person with it cannot fight off even the simplest of infections which healthy people can generally shrug off easily.

Per the first person with HIV (because the issue is different with all STIs, so you can't answer that question in a general way, sparing to say that STIs which are viruses -- not all are -- tend to have unclear origins but share characteristics), that's a question that has been asked and asked, but to which no one has a sure answer yet. Here's a good overview of what we know so far: http://www.avert.org/origins.htm .

[ 09-16-2006, 12:35 PM: Message edited by: Miz Scarlet ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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-Lauren-
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I was practically raised with misconceptions about HIV/AIDS. Only when I was in middle school did my mom tell me that my uncle had AIDS, which is why he always got sick and had to take so much medicine.

She was very adament in advising me not to tell anyone, because she said that everyone would call him a homo and think that they could catch it from me if I went near them.

As embarassed as I am to admit it, I'm pretty misinformed on this subject sometimes. Can HIV be transmitted through kissing/contact with saliva? I've never found a clear answer.

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Heather
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Transmission via open-mouthed kissing is possible, but it is considered to be a rare occurrence, and when it has ocurred, has been though to be due to contact with blood in the mouth, not saliva.

The body fluids of primary concern with HIV are blood and seminal fluid, not saliva. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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-Lauren-
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Aha, thank you much. [Smile]
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Heather
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No trouble!

What a sad story about the approach to your uncle. That happened SO much in the early days of AIDS, and sadly, it still happens way too often (it happening to one person is too often) now. I can't imagine growing up having to hear that. [Frown]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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-Lauren-
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Oh, yes. My mom recounted her and his mother trying to hash out ways in which he could have caught it -- toilet seats, shaking hands, the works. It was so poorly understood. He found out the day he went to donate blood for his wife's C-section; they simply said he couldn't donate blood because he was HIV positive.

But he's still alive and kicking, and his wife and child (now 12) look to be free of it, luckily. He's one of the most awesome, hard-working people I know.

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Djuna
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I just read that report and it's pretty interesting reading. Is there any reason in particular that more African-Americans tha white Americans have HIV?
That's a really poignant story Miss Lauren. It reminds me of the film Philadelphia. It's hard to believe now that people really were treated like this.

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“In a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”

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Heather
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There are a lot of reasons, really, not a single one.

Those include things like the fact that minority populations are hit harder, because as often oppressed classes, they have less access to quality medical care and services, including regular testing (and when you have less access to healthcare, your immune system may not work as well, because of not getting treatment for other infections, etc.). As a class, african-americans have lesser income than whites, and median incomes are always a factor in public health issues. Down-low culture may also be a factor, in terms of that being more prevalent in african-american community, as well cultural issues/attitudes per insistence on safer sex between women and men.

People are STILL, for the record, treated like Lauren's uncle. Things have gotten better, for sure, but treatment like that is still pervasive.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About MeGet our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Ikeren
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I recently had the wonderful and sadly depressing opportunity to hear Stephan Lewis speak, who wrote the book Race Against Time, about AIDS in Africa. He cited many examples in Africa where a solid education lead to ten year olds having full knowledge of sexual reproduction, and the transmission of STI's, as well as how to protect one-self.

After hearing that discouse, I would propose that a firm and definate education is really the answer - provided by parents or by school board. The problem is, parents don't want the duty, or are too ignorant themselves to take the duty - and the school board doesn't want the risk or to deal with bias.

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19, male, interested in Sadomasochism (BDSM) and some bisexual tendancies.

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NorCal
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I am new to Scarleteen, and may be too late for anyone to read this because it's been a few months. In the above about transmitting HIV, there are 4 fluids which can transmit the virus in an infected person:

Semen
Vaginal fluids
Blood
Breast milk

Saliva, urine, and tears do contain the virus in an infected person, but in very small amounts that they are not transmitters.

While possible to transmit the virus through open mouth kissing, there are no documented cases. It still poses risk because, as stated above, there would have to be open wounds and blood present.

The other really important fact about HIV transmission is making the connection between STDs and HIV. One has up to a ten fold increased chance of becoming infected if they already have an STD (assuming they are exposed to the virus by an infected person). This is because most STDs create open sores or rashes or a change in the cells of the infected area and therefore, create an "open doorway" for the HI virus.

And stigma is our greatest enemy in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is not a gay disease, it doesn't care who you are, or mistakes you've made, only what you do. And in terms of risk, we are all at risk based on the choices we make.

As a side note...World AIDS Day is December 1st!

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