Society stigmatises HIV/AIDS afflicted women worldwide: survey

April 1st, 2008 - 1:52 pm ICT by admin  

New York, April 1 (IANS) HIV positive women face strikingly high levels of stigma, besides gross social and gender inequalities worldwide, according to a survey. The online survey, conducted for the Foundation for AIDS Research, questioned nearly 5,000 respondents between 18 and 44 years and covered HIV risk and responsibility as wells as the impact of gender-based violence. Its results were presented in Washington D.C. Monday.

The survey reveals pervasive negative views of HIV positive women and a high level of discomfort in interacting with them. It also found women to be biologically more susceptible to HIV infection than men.

About 46 percent of people with HIV/AIDS - or about 15.4 million worldwide - are women and girls, the survey said.

Many of the respondents displayed a lack of knowledge of how HIV is transmitted and misplaced fear of contracting the virus that indicate a pressing need to scale up prevention education efforts.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents indicated that they would be somewhat or not at all comfortable with an HIV positive woman as their dentist.

Fifty-nine percent said they would be somewhat or not at all comfortable with an HIV-positive woman serving as their childcare provider. Fifty-seven percent said they would be somewhat or not at all comfortable having a female physician who is HIV-positive.

One in five respondents would be somewhat or not at all comfortable having a close friend who is HIV positive.

Only 14 percent of respondents felt that HIV-positive women should have children. Currently medication exists to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

However, respondents overwhelmingly supported expanded HIV testing and 65 percent support making HIV testing part of standard routine healthcare.

About 67 percent mistakenly assumed that they are automatically screened for HIV when they are tested for other sexually transmitted infections.

“Complacency has obscured the changing face of the epidemic and the dramatic rise in HIV infections in women over the past 25 years. These results should serve as a wake-up call for action across all sectors of society,” said Susan J. Blumenthal, who was involved with the survey.

“We need to intensify efforts for science-based education and policy to shatter the stigma that has surrounded this disease for all too long.”

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