The Kaiser Family Foundation just published a study indicating that Americans have gradually become more comfortable interacting with HIV+ people over the last 14 years. But that doesn’t mean that all Americans want HIV+ people working in their offices, schools, or restaurants mind you.
The study’s data reached some key conclusions:
- Black Americans, and particularly young blacks, express much higher levels of concern about HIV infection than whites.
- Reported HIV testing rates are flat since 1997, including among some key groups at higher risk.
- Thirty years into the epidemic, there is a declining sense of national urgency and visibility of HIV/AIDS.
- At the same time, after nearly a decade of decline, the share of Americans who say they are personally “very concerned” about becoming infected ticked up for the first time in this year’s survey.
- Many Americans still hold attitudes that may stigmatize people with HIV/AIDS, but such reported attitudes have declined in recent years.
- Despite continuing economic problems, more than half of Americans support increased funding for HIV/AIDS, and fewer than one in ten say the federal government spends too much in this area.
- Media, which includes radio, television, newspapers and online sources, is the top information source on HIV across racial/ethnic groups and for younger and older adults alike.
- Three-quarters of Americans could not name an individual who stands out as a national leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and no person who was mentioned makes it into double digits.
While the improved public sentiment regarding HIV+ people pleases me, some of these numbers seem personally discouraging. We’ve dealt with this disease for 30 years and still only 30 percent of respondents want to live with me (as I am poz)—that’s somewhat depressing. Teachers for example pose little to no risk of passing on virus to their students. Why then would a parent have concerns about the serostatus of their children’s educators?
As a resident in a small city (Eugene, Oregon) where even some people in the gay community lack education about HIV-transmission risks, I often myself find myself combating HIV/AIDS-related stigma.
My solution? I live very openly about my HIV status, and once someone knows someone living with HIV, they’re much less likely to feel uncomfortable around strangers carrying the disease.
However, I am glad that people recongize the need for further HIV and AIDS funding. The seeming apathy in communities and diminished profile of HIV in national policy has resulted in thousands waiting for medication while this disease ravages their immune systems—something that has to stop.