Survey says people living with HIV/AIDS not living ‘openly & positively’

Pune, December 11: Puneites definitely know how HIV is contracted and spread. Not through mosquito bites or shaking hands, for sure. In fact, amazingly high levels of awareness about HIV in Pune is heartening news. But what is worrisome is there is very low perception of HIV stigma in the society.

With an estimated 80,000 people living in Pune (1.8 per cent of the population according to a NACO 2002 report), a city based survey indicates that people living with HIV/AIDS are still not living openly and positively in society.

This survey was conducted by the Wake Up Pune – a coalition of NGOs and representatives from civil society working to spread awareness about HIV and AIDS in Pune-and technical inputs from National AIDS Research Institute (NARI) to evaluate public perceptions of HIV.

The survey was conducted from November 2006 to January 2007. Approximately 4,000 people from across the city were interviewed. The participants included school and college students, corporates and shopkeepers. It also included floating population at stations and markets in Pune. The participants were mostly from the young student and working age population and were between the age group 18 and 45.

Hans Billimoria, Coordinator of the Wake Up Campaign who conducted the survey along with his team said a majority of people had heard about HIV from television or cinema, and from other sources like radio or newspapers, but people were not talking about HIV with those who are close to them.

Only 38 per cent said they received knowledge about HIV from friends and only 19 per cent of respondents had received information from their family. Though almost 80 per cent of people surveyed were under the age of 30, only 43 per cent had heard about HIV in their school or college.

The levels of knowledge about HIV transmission and protection were relatively high. Most people knew that HIV can be transmitted through unprotected sex (92.6%), sharing needles (90%), a transfusion with infected blood (81.7%) and from an infected mother to her child (86%). Only few mistakenly believed HIV could be transmitted by shaking hands/embracing (5.6%), through mosquito bites (8.5%) and by using public toilets (8.1%).

HIV intolerance becomes apparent in answers to questions about HIV in personal interactions. Sixty one per cent of participants said they didn’t know anyone with HIV despite the fact that there are estimated to be at least 80,000 people living with HIV in Pune.

Fifty six per cent of people said they had absolutely no risk of becoming infected with HIV. While people may know the risks of HIV and the best ways to protect themselves, they aren’t acting on this knowledge in their everyday lives. This is because people still don’t see HIV as a problem that affects them,

Billimoria said. Yet, there there is still widespread fear of HIV among participants if it personally affects them.

Click here to download the survey in full.

Anuradha Mascarenhas
Posted online: Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 12:00:00
Updated: Wednesday, December 12, 2007 at 12:43:46

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