Terrence Higgins Trust: 52% of people still wrongly believe HIV is a death sentence

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

A survey by Terrence Higgins Trust shows more than nine out of ten people with HIV think public understanding of the condition needs improving.

The sexual health and health charity has surveyed 531 people living with HIV about their experiences of public attitudes to the condition. 88% reported they had encountered one or more HIV myths during the last five years, giving a picture of the top six myths that persist around the virus.

63% wrongly believe HIV and AIDS are the same thing; just over half (52%) assume an HIV diagnosis is a death sentence and 37% incorrectly believe there is a cure or vaccine for HIV.

83% of people with HIV could think of a time when they wanted to disclose their HIV status but didn’t feel able to. The top three reasons for this were listed as: worry about people’s negative reaction (85%), worry that people would tell others (79%), and worry about people’s ignorance (75%).

Lisa Power, policy director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “It’s worrying that we have one part of the public who are stuck in the 1980s when HIV would kill you, and another who have flashed forward to a cure that doesn’t exist yet. We can’t blame people for being confused; the last national awareness campaign in this country was over 25 years ago. However, ignorance of the facts can make life tremendously difficult for those living with the virus. It’s also a shortcut to getting infected yourself.

“Please get involved this World AIDS Day and help us combat misinformation and stigma. Picking a fact and passing it on will only take a few minutes, but it can help people living with HIV, and those most at risk.”

Figures released last week by Public Health England showed HIV infections among gay and bisexual men at a record high.

3,250 gay and bisexual men were diagnosed with HIV in 2012, the highest annual figure since the start of the epidemic.

Terrence Higgins Trust is also re-launching a free and confidential one-to-one mentoring project for gay and bisexual men living with HIV in London. The scheme is a chance for people with HIV who want extra support to be paired with a fully trained mentor, who can help them build confidence, form social networks and address medical or professional issues.

Anyone living in London can register their interest in being paired with a mentor by emailing [email protected] or call (020) 7812 1721. For more information about the project, please visit www.tht.org.uk/communitysupport