Based on a national sample of more than twenty-five hundred adults age 18 and older, the inaugural State of HIV Stigma Study (3 pages, PDF) found that only half of those responding to the survey said they were knowledgeable about HIV, while 60 percent understood that it's a medical condition that can be treated. The survey also found that nine out of ten Americans (89 percent) acknowledge that there is stigma around the virus, 88 percent agree that people are quick to judge those who have HIV, 59 percent agree with the stigma-reinforcing statement that it is "important to be careful around people living with HIV to avoid catching it," and 35 percent agree that people living with HIV should not have to disclose their status. In addition, 54 percent of those surveyed said they are uncomfortable seeing a doctor, dentist, or medical professional who is living with HIV, while nearly half said they would be somewhat or strongly uncomfortable having a partner or spouse with HIV.
According to the study, education is critical to preventing the spread of the virus, with more than 90 percent of respondents indicating that prevention should be a priority and that schools should provide prevention information to students.
"The need for more education couldn't be clearer," said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. "Stigma has a real impact on people living with HIV and those most at risk of contracting the disease. If people don't feel comfortable talking about HIV, then they won't feel comfortable to get tested or seek treatment."