Fifth of Scots believe HIV is spread by kissing, according to survey

Written by Tom Freeman on 4 May 2018 in News

EXCLUSIVE: Survey reveals myths surrounding HIV are fuelling stigma, warns charity

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Myths surrounding the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) persist in Scotland, fuelling stigma against those who carry it, a leading charity has warned.

Research from the Scottish Health Council’s Citizen’s Panel survey has revealed that 21 per cent of people continue to believe that HIV can be passed on from kissing.

The results, commissioned by HIV Scotland, also show five per cent believe it can be passed on through sharing a glass, cup or cutlery.

In fact the virus, which damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease, can only be passed by body fluids such as blood, semen or breastmilk.

As such it disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men, sex workers and people who inject drugs.

The drug PrEP, a pill you can take daily, prevents HIV transmission, but only 17 per cent are aware of its existence, according to the survey.

HIV Scotland said the results reveal why people living with HIV are subject to stigma.

George Valiotis, CEO of HIV Scotland said: “It is dangerous that myths and out-dated information remain so widespread. Their prevalence misleads and misinforms people of the 21st century reality of HIV, and devastates relationships and lives."

He added: “It is time that everyone knows that HIV cannot be passed on via saliva, kissing or sharing cutlery.

“HIV Scotland produced a national strategy, The Road Map to Zero, which sets out the approach needed to tackle the myths surrounding HIV, which includes action on education in schools.

“We’ll continue to advocate getting education right for young people regarding HIV & sexual health, whilst recognising that more needs to be done to inform the general public about the modern day realities of the virus.”

HIV hit the headlines in the 1980s and 1990s but harm reduction techniques and modern drug treatment regimens mean that most HIV positive people now have a normal life expectancy.

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