More Than Half of Americans Still Believe Dangerous Myths About HIV

"We urgently need to educate the public on the facts about HIV today."

We still have a long way to go in combatting HIV/AIDS stigma, according to a new report from GLAAD.

The advocacy group's first State of HIV Stigma Study surveyed more than 2,500 Americans over the age of 18 about their knowledge and opinions regarding HIV/AIDS and people living with HIV. The research was funded by Gilead Sciences, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the HIV prevention drug Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), also known as Truvada, and is developing a costly new COVID-19 treatment. And its results are staggering: In 2020, nearly six out of 10 Americans wrongfully believe that "it is important to be careful around people living with HIV to avoid catching it."

Although people living with HIV who have an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus, only 35% of respondents think those who are HIV-positive "shouldn't have to tell others."

However, there appears to be some self-awareness among Americans. A whopping 89% of respondents said there is still stigma around HIV, and 88% agree that people are "quick to judge" those living with HIV. What's more, 40% of cisgender, heterosexual Americans and 34% of LGBTQ Americans admitted that they only "know a little about HIV."

To combat this, GLAAD also announced its Accelerate Compassion and Accelerate Impact programs, which will provide media training to LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS advocates and improve the quality of HIV/AIDS media coverage around the country. Both programs are funded through a $9 million grant from Gilead.

In a media statement, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis stressed the need to "educate the public on the facts about HIV today":

People living with HIV today are leading long, healthy lives and cannot transmit HIV when they receive proper treatment, but the stigma that they face has persisted for far too long and leads to harmful discrimination. HIV issues have flown under the radar, but with advances in treatment and prevention, we urgently need to educate the public on the facts about HIV today. GLAAD’s new programs will ensure that local HIV advocates are front and center throughout national and local media in an effort to educate the public and uplift stories about people living with HIV.

These efforts are especially vital given the Trump administration's lackluster HIV/AIDS initiatives. As NewNowNext previously reported, the president wrongfully claimed that an "AIDS vaccine" exists during a coronavirus press conference in June. This came months after Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence to spearhead the White House's coronavirus task force, a move that sparked criticism given Pence's infamously poor handling of an HIV/AIDS outbreak in Indiana during his tenure as governor.

Read GLAAD's full report here.

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