OVER half of millennials would shun a friend if they learned they had the HIV virus, a survey has found.
People aged between 25 to 34 years-of-age are also least worried about catching HIV – and campaigners fear a lack of awareness is putting young people at risk of infection.
Roland Chesters, from disability development consultancy Luminate, commissioned the survey of over 2,000 people in the UK to gauge current perceptions around the disease.
Shocked and dismayed.
Roland said: “I am both shocked and dismayed by the results – discrimination against people living with the condition should be a thing of the past.”
“We have made huge strides with the diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS since the 1980s and it’s time the public perception caught up.”
Early diagnosis and treatment mean people living with HIV can expect to live as long as the general population – as well as reducing the risk of passing it on.
But as many as 22 per cent said they would no longer be friends with someone with HIV and 32 per cent said they would distance themselves.
And 40 per cent of those questioned thought people got HIV through irresponsible behaviour or a promiscuous sex life.
Roland, who was given just two weeks to live because he was diagnosed at a late stage of the virus, said: “It’s sad that people could end a relationship or distance themselves because they are willing to judge another person’s lifestyle.”
“Most people aren’t as judgemental of other illnesses, such as cancer or diabetes, even if a person’s lifestyle was a contributing factor.”
Unaware of risks
The report found nearly 60 per cent of the millennial respondents said they were not personally worried about catching HIV – whereas the majority of people over the age of 45 were still concerned about the risks.
But almost three-quarters of gay men who were newly diagnosed in 2017 were aged between 25 and 49 years. This has remained the same for the past 10 years.
Roland puts it down to the fear instilled in the older generations with the 1980s “tombstone” public health campaign, which showed HIV/AIDS as a death sentence.
Roland, who previously chaired the disabled staff network at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said: “Millennials were not exposed to the stark ‘life or death’ adverts, which started to raise awareness of HIV and educate us about how it could be contracted.
“There are too many young people who don’t fully understand the situation. We need to bridge the gap between assumptions and reality.”
Roland is urging schools to include information about HIV as part of their sex education.
Norman Fowler was behind the 1980s advert campaign to raise awareness of HIV while health secretary under Thatcher.
Nearly 10 years ago, the now Lord Speaker called on the House of Lords to run another government led campaign – but this time based on education rather than fear.
His report stated: “Discrimination against those affected by HIV is based, at best, on ignorance and, at worst, on prejudice, and we unreservedly condemn it. This underlines the need for a general public awareness campaign on HIV.”
But the recommendation was not carried out. Roland said: “In the long-run, an awareness raising campaign would save the government time, money and, most importantly, lives.”
For more information, visit Luminate