An examination of attitudes towards HIV and people living with HIV has yielded mixed results in a new survey by GLAAD. While 88 percent of those surveyed noted that others were quick to judge people living with HIV, 59 percent also said it was “important to be careful around people living with HIV to avoid catching it." Barely half of those who responded felt knowledgeable about HIV.
“The HIV epidemic won’t end until we tackle the effects of stigma,” GLAAD said in a statement announcing the findings. “Despite making significant progress towards ending the epidemic, a majority of the public feels uncomfortable, uninformed, and concerned about HIV and people living with it."
GLAAD conducted the State of HIV Stigma Study online between November and December 2019, from a national sample of 2,506 U.S. adults, age 18 or over. The study included queer and trans communities as well as others. The results presented a glass half-full, half-empty landscape when it comes to perception, prevention, and education.
Non-LGBTQ+ responders were decidedly optimistic about those living with HIV, and were equally supportive of education and prevention measure by a significant margin. They polled at 90 percent or higher when asked if information should be “easily available” (92 percent), whether addressing HIV should be a “high priority” (93 percent), if “great strides have been made” in the fight against HIV (90 percent), and whether they felt those living with HIV “can lead productive/happy lives” (91 percent).
While those numbers were encouraging, the survey found areas of discomfort for both LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ respondents. For example, 56 percent of non-LGBTQ people surveyed said they would feel “strongly/somewhat strongly uncomfortable” with a “doctor, dentist, or medical professional living with HIV” while 45 percent of LGBTQ+ folks shared similar views. These levels of discomfort existed across a series of professions across the communities: Teachers (29 percent LGBTQ+, 34 percent otherwise) and barbers or hair stylists (39 percent LGBTQ+, 51 percent others).
“The State of HIV Stigma survey confirms that stigma and misinformation around HIV is widespread, and there is much work to be done to educate the public before we can end the epidemic once and for all,” GLAAD concluded.