CDC Study Finds 18% of Public Stigmatizes HIV/AIDS
Nearly one in five Americans hold a "stigmatizing attitude" toward HIV-positive individuals and two in five believe that HIV transmission "could occur" through sharing a glass, coughing or sneezing, according to a new CDC report. The survey, conducted by the Research Triangle Institute and published in this week's issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, included responses from 5,641 individuals who agreed to answer Internet survey questions in exchange for free Internet access and equipment. In the measure of stigmatizing attitudes, 18.7% of respondents "strongly agreed or agreed" with the statement, "'People who got AIDS through sex or drug use have gotten what they deserve.'"
These responses were more common among men, whites, people over 54, those with no greater than a high school education, those who earn less than $30,000 and those in poor health. On the knowledge-based questions, 40.2% said that HIV transmission could occur (that is, was very likely, somewhat likely or somewhat unlikely) through sharing a glass, and 41.1% said "it could occur from being coughed on or sneezed on by an HIV-infected person." Those who fell into these categories were 11% more likely also to give a stigmatizing response. An editorial note following the MMWR report concludes that "increasing understanding about behaviors related to HIV transmission may result in lower levels of stigmatizing beliefs about infected persons."
The note also cautions that the findings of the report are limited because they are based "on only one question about stigma, which comprises a range of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors" and because the survey did not include "persons who do not own a telephone, persons in institutions, the transient or homeless and those living on military installations" (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 12/1).