More than half of Americans think they have to be “careful” around people living with HIV, according to eye-opening new research.
GLAAD and pharma giant Gilead commissioned the State of HIV Stigma study, which polled 2,506 adults from across the US about their attitudes towards people with HIV.
The poll found that 59 per cent of Americans believe it is “important to be careful around people living with HIV to avoid catching it”.
HIV can only be transmitted through direct blood or sexual contact, and the vast majority of people on effective treatment have an undetectable viral load, meaning they cannot pass on the virus.
However, only 60 per cent of respondents were aware that HIV can be treated.
Just one in three agreed that people “should not have to tell others they are living with HIV”, despite disclosure of HIV status in everyday life being a personal decision.
Stigma towards people living with HIV is still high in the LGBT+ community.
The research also highlights that stigma is almost as high in the LGBT+ community as it is among straight and cis respondents.
For instance, 56 per cent of non-LGBT+ respondents said they’d be uncomfortable having a “doctor, dentist, or medical professional living with HIV” — a sentiment shared by 45 per cent of LGBT+ respondents.
Some 47 per cent of non-LGBT+ respondents and 39 per cent of LGBT+ respondents said they would be uncomfortable having a hairstylist living with HIV, while 32 per cent of non-LGBT+ respondents and 30 per cent of LGBT+ respondents would be uncomfortable having a co-worker living with HIV.
Tackling stigma ‘needs collaboration between the entire community’
GLAAD boss Sarah Kate Ellis said: “People living with HIV today are leading long, healthy lives and cannot transmit HIV when they receive proper treatment, but the stigma that they face has persisted for far too long and leads to harmful discrimination.
“HIV issues have flown under the radar, but with advances in treatment and prevention, we urgently need to educate the public on the facts about HIV today.”
Amy Flood of Gilead said: “Gilead is committed to going where the need is greatest to end the HIV epidemic, and there is no better partner to help us do that than GLAAD.
“This new survey gives us valuable insight into the role stigma plays as a barrier to care.
“The solution will require collaboration between the entire community fighting this epidemic, from scientists, to doctors and community leaders — and Gilead is proud to be a part of this effort.”
Gilead has recently faced allegations of profiteering over HIV medications. The pharma giant is accused of intentionally slow-walking production of a more effective treatment in order to maximise its patent coverage.
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