New Global Study From M-A-C AIDS Fund Uncovers Surprising Reality That Disease is Still Under-Estimated as A Global Killer

NEW YORK, Nov. 13 /PRNewswire/ — A new global study from the M-A-C AIDS Fund, the philanthropic arm of Estee Lauder-owned M-A-C cosmetics, shockingly reveals that after a quarter of a century of HIV and AIDS, nearly half of people still do not view the disease as a deadly affliction. Globally, more then 40 percent of respondents do not understand that AIDS always results in fatality.

In a collusion of opinion and fact, this first-ever perception audit also found that 86 percent of adults in the United States, UK, France, Russia, China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa believe stigma and shame to be a contributor to the spread of HIV. Seventy-six percent report lack of access to treatment to be a problem as well.

"Today, more than 25 years after the emergence of the disease, it is startling to learn that facts about HIV/AIDS are still a guessing game for much of the world and that many are still in the dark about the undeniable reality that HIV/AIDS shockingly remains a top global killer," said Nancy Mahon, executive director of the M-A-C AIDS Fund. "Social stigmas that plagued us then are still limiting progress now. Understanding the insights from this new survey, however, is what will help take us to the next level of policy, prevention and care in the fight against AIDS."

To probe the "next level" in the solution to the global HIV/AIDS crisis, the MAC AIDS Fund gathered a group of policy experts, grassroots activists and fundraisers this morning in New York for a roundtable discussion, moderated by William Holstein, a business journalist who writes for the New York Times and other top publications and is president of the Overseas Press Club Foundation. The six-member panel — including Dr. Thomas Kenyon, Principal Deputy Coordinator and Chief Medical Officer in the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator; Jennifer Kates, vice president and director of HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation; Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women; Dr. Marsha Martin, director for HIV/AIDS programs in the Oakland, Calif. mayor’s office and a former HIV/AIDS administrator for the Washington, D.C. Department of Health; Anthony Rapp, star of Broadway musical and motion picture Rent; and Mahon — focused their discussion on three issue areas: access to treatment, stigma and shame and women.

"As we examine the findings of the MAC AIDS Fund survey, it is important to keep the broader context in mind — that only one in five people who needed treatment in 2006 received it; that countless people living with HIV have suffered violations of their basic human rights because of their status; and that today more women than ever before are living with HIV," said Dr. Gupta. "It is only within that context that we can truly understand the devastating impact of the misperceptions that still persist, as well as benefits that can be achieved through accurate information."

"HIV and AIDS is an issue that goes beyond the medical community, beyond even the policy community. It is a disease that has permeated the very social and cultural fabric of our lives," said Rapp. "Today’s survey from the MAC AIDS Fund is helping to tell a personal story and give a voice to the people who are living with the disease every day."

Other top findings of the MAC AIDS Fund survey include:

Many people mistakenly believe there is currently a cure for HIV.
— While 79 percent of Indians understand that AIDS is always fatal, fully 59 percent wrongly believe that there is a cure for HIV available today.

People believe treatment is more widely available than it is.
— Nearly half of all respondents believe that most people diagnosed with HIV are receiving treatment, when in fact only one in five people who needed treatment received it in 2006.
— Only people in China and South Africa believe by two-thirds or more that most people who are infected with HIV are not receiving the treatment they need.
— Formal education makes a difference in the UK, where people without university degrees are more likely than their educated counterparts to believe most people with HIV are receiving treatment.

Prejudice, fear and stigma continue to exclude people living with AIDS from the mainstream.
— Across all countries, majorities are not comfortable interacting on intimate levels with people who are HIV positive: Nearly half of people are uncomfortable working alongside those who have the disease; 52 percent do not want to live in the same house with someone who is HIV positive; and 79 percent are not comfortable dating someone who has HIV or AIDS.
— More than 40 percent of people in India reported they would be uncomfortable to visit the same physician as someone with HIV/AIDS.
— More then 30 percent of people in the United States maintain they are uncomfortable with working with someone who has HIV or AIDS.

Despite holding onto stigma, people understand all segments of the population are at risk to contract HIV.
— Three in five (60%) global respondents recognize "responsible" people can contract HIV, yet more than one-quarter believe you can only get the disease from "sinful" behavior.
— Yet in Brazil, China and Mexico, 60 percent or more of people believe that acting "responsibly" will protect people from HIV infection.

Gender roles and corresponding discussions of safe sex with a partner are seen as contributors to the spread of HIV.
— Seventy-three percent of people report that a problem contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS is that women find it too difficult to discuss safe sex with their partners, despite the fact that using a condom is proven to be highly effective in preventing HIV infection
— In South Africa difficulty women face in discussing safe sex ranks third, under only limited access to treatment and shame and stigma.
— In the United States, UK, France and Russia the difficulty men face in discussing safe sex is seen as a bigger problem than for women in the spread of HIV.

Survey Methodology
The survey was conducted during a two-week period in September 2007. Approximately 500 interviews were conducted in each of nine countries — the United States, UK, Russia, France, China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. All nine countries are weighted equally in the totals presented to ensure that countries with larger populations did not dominate the results. Adult respondents were surveyed via phone, using random digit dial techniques, and face-to-face in countries where phone access is less universal (South Africa, India, Mexico and Brazil). The survey was administered in official in- country languages.

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