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30 Years on and the British public still don't understand the basics of HIV

3rd June 2011
Sunday 5 June marks 30 years since the first cases of HIV and despite many successes in tackling the epidemic; more people than ever are living with HIV in the UK and a significant proportion of the British public still do not know the basic facts around HIV transmission.   

One in five people (20%) do not realise that HIV can be passed on through sex without a condom between a man and a woman and worryingly, knowledge of this fact has fallen by 11% in the last decade.  In addition, one in ten people incorrectly believe HIV can be transmitted through impossible routes such as kissing (9%) and spitting (10%) and these figures have doubled since 2007 (from 4% and 5% respectively).

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:

’30 years of HIV is a huge milestone and in this time there have been great strides in HIV treatment, testing and care.  However, as these advances have meant HIV is now a manageable long-term condition and not a death sentence, HIV has largely fallen off the political and public agenda, and knowledge has declined.  There are now huge gaps in public awareness and understanding of HIV and a significant proportion of the British public are unaware of the basics – such as using a condom – and cannot distinguish between the facts and the myths.

The 30th anniversary of HIV and these worrying statistics come just days ahead of a UN meeting where 26 heads of state will meet in New York to discuss progress in tackling the epidemic.  The UK, along with countries from around the world, have signed a UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV and AIDS which commits to having a national strategy for combating HIV which addresses stigma, discrimination, human rights, prevention, care, treatment and support.

As there is currently no national strategy on HIV, the UK will be attending the UN meeting next week in breach of our international commitments and failing to meet best practice in addressing the epidemic.

NAT is calling on the Government to devise and implement a much needed national strategy for HIV so we can make progress in responding to the HIV epidemic in the UK.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), concludes:

‘It is unacceptable that in 2011 – 30 years after the first cases of HIV – the number of new HIV diagnoses is double what it was ten years ago, and people living with HIV still face stigma and discrimination.  Without a national strategy to tackle these serious health and equality issues, HIV will continue to be silenced and sidelined in the UK.  Strategic action will make the difference between progress and failure in the fight against HIV.’

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