ATLANTA – A survey of what people know about AIDS found that four out of 10 mistakenly believe it is possible to get the disease by sharing a drinking glass or being coughed or sneezed on by an infected person.
The survey, released Thursday, was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s scary that so many people are still so ignorant of what causes HIV-AIDS,” said Marty Algaze, a spokesman for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. “Almost 20 years into this epidemic, it’s disturbing that people think you could still get it from casual contact.”
About 40 percent of the more than 5,600 participants in the nationwide survey said it was very likely, somewhat likely or somewhat unlikely that HIV could be transmitted by sharing a glass.
Researchers included the “somewhat unlikely” response in the 40 percent because that choice includes the possibility of transmission. “Very unlikely” and “impossible” were the other choices.
Forty-one percent said transmission is possible by being coughed or sneezed on by someone with the virus.
Nearly 19 percent of those surveyed said they agreed with the statement, “People who got AIDS through sex or drug use have gotten what they deserve.”
The survey found that those with more knowledge about how the virus is spread were less inclined to agree with the statement.
The AIDS virus is most commonly spread through blood or semen, usually involving unprotected sex or sharing a needle with an infected person. Between 800,000 and 900,000 Americans have been infected with HIV.
Dr. Melanie Thompson, founder of the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta, said the survey underscores that many people still consider AIDS a “gay disease” and “didn’t bother to educate themselves about the facts.”
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