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Outdated stereotypes about HIV are still widespread among the British public

2017-06-29
Public opinion towards those living with HIV has a long way to go, according to new statistics. People on effective HIV treatment cannot pass on the virus, but most people’s perceptions of HIV are not based on facts, but rather stereotypes. New statistics by YouGov reveal that 1 in 3 British adults would be ‘uncomfortable’ giving First Aid to someone living with HIV. Nearly 40% of Brits would be ‘uncomfortable’ going on a date with someone living with HIV and who is on effective treatment, while only 9% believed that people on effective treatment can’t pass on HIV. The attitudes among gay adults are slightly more encouraging, but still display a degree of ignorance surrounding the effectiveness of current treatments for the virus. 9% of gay adults would be ‘uncomfortable’ giving First Aid to someone living with HIV, who is on effective treatment, 14% of gay adults would be ‘uncomfortable’ going on a date with someone living with HIV, who is on effective treatment (this is 22% for bisexual respondents). One in four (25%) gay adults believed that people on effective treatment can’t pass on HIV (12% for bisexual respondents). In response to the findings, the Terrence Higgins Trust have launched a campaign called Can’t Pass It On, to raise awareness that people on effective HIV treatment cannot pass on the virus. This is a scientifically proven fact, but is still so far removed from most people’s perceptions of HIV. If everyone knew this, we could bring an end to HIV stigma and encourage people to get tested. Alex Sparrowhawk, 32, who lives in Manchester, has been living with HIV since 2009. He says: “I was diagnosed in November 2009. I’d been feeling unwell and developed a cough that lasted a bit too long, so went to the clinic for a HIV test. When I got the message asking me to come back in, I knew that something was wrong. They wouldn't ask you back if it was all clear. “I contacted an ex who is living with HIV, and he came with me to the clinic. When they told me, I had so many questions, like: "Am I going to get ill?" "Am I going to have to quit work?" "Am I ever going to meet anyone again?" The doctor and my friend tried to reassure me, but I didn't take much of it in. Even though I went in there guessing what was going to happen, it was still quite a shock. “I spent about 2 years living with HIV before I told my Mum or Dad, mostly because I was worried about what was going to happen to me. After two years I had come to terms with the fact that I was going to live a normal life and I was going to do what I wanted to do, and I was able to take that to them, and tell them. “I asked them ‘Have you noticed a difference in me?’, they said ‘No’ and I could tell them that this was because I was on medication, which suppressed the virus, it’s not detectable in my blood. I’ve been able to continue working, be in a relationships, go on holiday and much more.” More stories: Here’s how to survive Pride and festival season in style Ansel Elgort is sexy and suave on Gentlemen’s Journal cover