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Three Quarters Of Teens Wouldn't Drink From The Same Cup As Someone With HIV, UK
June 23, 2011
Eight in ten (81%) young people know that HIV can not be transmitted by sharing a cup with someone who is HIV positive, yet three quarters (73%) of 12 to 18-year-olds say they still wouldn't do it.
Teachers are being encouraged to take part in a campaign that promotes new perspectives on HIV, as previously-unreleased research from Body & Soul shows over half of London students say they have insufficient information about the disease.
Body & Soul, which supports children, teenagers and families living with HIV, is launching Life in my Shoes, an educational programme that will dispel common myths and turn around the negative attitudes towards young people affected by the disease.
Life in my Shoes kicks off with Search for a Star, a competition that gives young Britons the chance to star in a dramatic feature film that profiles the real stories of youth living with HIV.
A recent study of London students aged 12-18 reveals a significant gap between what young people know about HIV and how they would behave towards someone living with the disease. While the majority of respondents demonstrated a clear understanding of how HIV is transmitted, many indicated that, despite their knowledge to the contrary, they would not share a cup, shake hands with or kiss someone who was HIV-positive.
Social stigmas also prevail: many respondents were concerned about the emotional strain and negative peer perception of having a relationship with someone with HIV.
Despite these misconceptions, students have an appetite to learn. While 41 percent of study respondents felt they had received too little information on HIV, more than half (54 per cent) said they would like to learn more about the disease. Schools and teachers were also named as the most trustworthy sources of information about HIV, giving educational institutions an important role in combating negative attitudes towards the disease.
Life in my Shoes will capitalize on the unique role schools can play in helping students overcome stigmas and increase understanding about HIV by giving them the opportunity to participate in a creative learning platform.
Gary Aubin, a Drama teacher in London, said:
"Life in my Shoes is a way for students to see the individual behind the statistic - to realise, in a creative and engaging way, that HIV affects real people everywhere, and that HIV positive people need understanding and acceptance."
Ros Burkinshaw, Head of Youth Services at Body & Soul, commented:
"For the approximately 16,000 people in Britain under the age of 24 who are HIV-positive1, life can be a daily ritual of isolation, fear, rejection and loneliness. Young people have special challenges when it comes to understanding and talking about the disease, and stigma starts at an early age. The goal of Life in my Shoes is talk to youth about HIV in a language they can understand; to put the stories of their peers at the forefront, to dispel myths, and engage them with the subject matter in a way that is both informative and educational."
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Directed by Tudor Payne, and with several surprise celebrity cameos, the Life in my Shoes feature film will give audiences the unique opportunity to see what life is like in the shoes of Londoners who are HIV positive, experiencing the challenges they face in and out of the classroom. Production will start in April, and release is due for Autumn 2011 as part of a unique curriculum resource written in conjunction with teaching professionals, and supported by TeachFirst, the GLA, the PSHE Association and the National Lottery.
1. About Search for a Star
Search for a Star is an in-school and public talent search though which one young Briton will be selected to play the lead role in the upcoming Life in my Shoes feature film, part of the Body & School educational programme. Aspiring actors between the ages of 14 and 21 can enter between February 17 and March 17 by visiting lifeinmyshoes.org.
2. Attitudes to HIV among 12-18 year olds in London: Report to Body and Soul (Office for Public Management, August 2010):
The research highlighted a contradiction between what young people knew about HIV and how they said they would behave:
- While 81 per cent of young people knew that HIV could not be transmitted by sharing a cup, only 27 per cent of them went on to say that they would drink from the same cup as someone who they knew was HIV positive.
- Likewise, while 69 per cent of young people knew they could not get HIV by kissing, only 24 per cent of them went on to say they would kiss someone who they knew was HIV positive.
- Even some of the youngest people in the sample - 12 and 13 year olds - said they would not share a cup with, shake hands with or kiss someone who they knew was HIV positive, even if they knew it was not possible to get HIV that way. Crucially, this shows that HIV-related stigma starts at an early age.
Schools are the most important place for students to learn about HIV:
- Young people tended to feel that teachers were the most trustworthy source of information on HIV, suggesting that schools are a good route of communicating with young people on the topic.
- Communication by teachers also appears to have the potential to achieve impact: those who said they had been taught about HIV in school not only had higher levels of knowledge about how HIV is transmitted but also - to some extent - appeared to be less prejudiced towards people with HIV.
- Importantly, almost 1 in 3 of the young people consulted said they had either not been taught about HIV in their school, or did not know if they had.
Body & Soul
One In Five Adults Do Not Realise HIV Is Transmitted Through Sex Without A Condom Between A Man And A Woman, UK
June 07, 2011
NAT (National AIDS Trust) launches its fourth survey 'HIV: Public Knowledge and Attitudes 2010', conducted by Ipsos MORI amongst adults aged 16+ in Great Britain (referred to henceforth as 'people' or 'the public'). The report reveals a worrying decline in knowledge and understanding of HIV over the past ten years.
Dispelling the transmission myths and misconceptions
The survey revealed HIV transmission to be an area of great confusion among the British public. One in five people (20%) failed to identify sex without a condom between a man and a woman as a way in which HIV can be passed on when shown a list of possible routes. The same proportion did not identify sex without a condom between two men. These figures have fallen by 11 and eight percentage points respectively in the last decade. Overall, one in 12 adults (8%) did not identify any sex without a condom - whether heterosexual or homosexual - as an HIV transmission route.
In addition, less than half of the public (45%) believe HIV can be passed from person to person by sharing needles or syringes. Only three in ten (30%) were able to correctly identify all the ways HIV can and cannot be passed on. The figures also showed one in ten people incorrectly believe HIV can be transmitted through impossible routes such as kissing (9%) and spitting (10%). Even more worryingly, these percentages have doubled since 2007 (from 4% and 5% respectively).
These figures reveal a distinct lack of knowledge around how HIV is passed on from person to person, and one in six people (17%) don't feel they know enough about how to prevent HIV transmission during sex.
Reality of HIV in the UK
The survey also looks at general knowledge of HIV in the UK today. Encouragingly, the majority of the public (70%) were aware it was false that if someone becomes infected with HIV in the UK they would probably die within three years. However, one in ten (11%) still believe this to be true. Other misconceptions also remained, with two-fifths (42%) believing an HIV test will only provide a reliable result three months after possible infection, and nearly half (47%) thinking there are no effective ways of preventing a pregnant mother with HIV from passing HIV on to her baby during pregnancy and childbirth.
The reality is, a person can get a reliable HIV test from one month after potential infection (though a confirmatory test at three months is often recommended), and advances in treatment and routine testing of pregnant women also means an HIV positive mother has more than a 99% chance of going on to have a healthy baby if the correct steps are taken.
It is important for the public to be aware of these facts, as knowledge can curb the unnecessary fears around HIV which prevent testing and make disclosure of HIV status difficult. Positively, more than two-fifths (44%) said they would be interested to hear more about the reality of HIV in the UK today and this figure rises to 52% amongst 16-24 year olds.
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:
'As the number of people with HIV in the UK approaches 100,000, it is crucial for everyone to understand the facts around how HIV is passed on so they can protect themselves and others. Whilst HIV disproportionately affects gay men and Africans, the number of people with HIV who are not in these groups is steadily rising, and unfortunately there does still remain a serious amount of confusion around HIV transmission. Many people are unaware of the basics such as using a condom to protect themselves, whilst myths such as transmission from kissing and spitting are still perpetuated.
'One of the most concerning aspects of this survey is the fact that knowledge of HIV transmission amongst the general public has declined significantly over the last ten years. With the number of HIV infections in the UK still going up, one in six people feeling they do not know enough about how to prevent HIV transmission during sex is simply too high. When it comes to protecting yourself from HIV infection, knowledge is power. The Government must take the lead in acting to improve understanding and so protect public health.'
Public attitudes to HIV
An important aspect of the survey was assessing how supportive the wider public are of people with HIV and the extent to which stigma and discrimination still linger in our society. Positively, the figures did show that most of the public have a supportive attitude, with two thirds (67%) saying they have sympathy for people with HIV and three quarters (74%) agreeing people with HIV deserve the same level of support and respect as people with cancer.
However, a significant minority of people continue to hold stigmatising and discriminatory views. One in ten adults (11%) claimed not to have much sympathy towards people with HIV, and this figure rose to a three in ten (30%) towards those infected with HIV through unprotected sex. Given 95% of people with HIV were infected through unprotected sex; this is an extremely worrying figure.
Personal feelings towards people living with HIV were also an issue. One in five people felt it would damage their relationship with a family member (19%) and neighbour (23%) if they found out they were HIV positive. In employment, despite two thirds of people (67%) agreeing they would be comfortable working with a colleague who had HIV, more than one in ten (13%) admitted they would not be comfortable with this. This figure was almost the same five years ago (11%) - showing certain attitudes have not shifted.
Interestingly, over a third of the public (38%) think their employer should tell them if one of their colleagues is HIV positive. This view of having a 'right to know' is completely unnecessary as there is no risk of HIV transmission in everyday work situations. Such prejudicial views are examples of how stigma can undermine rights to privacy and confidentiality.
The majority of the public (64%) believe that there is still a great deal of stigma in the UK today around HIV and a similar proportion agree it is right there are laws to protect people with HIV from discrimination (69%) and that more needs to be done to tackle prejudice against people living with HIV in the UK (68%). However, the figures showed that women were more likely than men to agree that more needs to be done to tackle prejudice (73% vs. 62%).
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), concludes:
'It is certainly positive to see the majority of the public have supportive attitudes towards people with HIV, but there are still huge gaps in awareness of what it means to live with HIV in the UK today. For example, the fact that an HIV positive mother can have a healthy baby and being HIV positive can still mean a near normal lifespan.
'Whilst HIV treatment has advanced rapidly in the last ten years, knowledge and attitudes have sadly not kept pace - resulting in stigma and discrimination. Successfully addressing HIV stigma is vital, not just so people living with HIV are treated fairly, but also so everyone feels confident to test for HIV and talk about HIV related risk.
'The survey indicates there is a link between knowledge and attitude. Those who understand the facts about HIV transmission are more likely to have a supportive attitude than those who are confused or hold false beliefs. Stigma and discrimination is often borne out of fear of infection (based on misconception around transmission). They can also arise from broader perceptions and judgements about people who have HIV.
It is extremely important that inroads are made in terms of educating the general public so we can eradicate the prejudice which still exists around HIV. In addition to improving knowledge of HIV, intensive work also needs to go into tackling the often deep-seated judgments and beliefs held about HIV and the people affected. The Government made a concerted and effective effort to tackle this stigma in mental health, and now it is time for HIV to be addressed in the same way.'
NAT (National AIDS Trust)