A recent study showed that a little over a quarter of Millennials are not willing to interact with people living with HIV, according to the Advocate.
The study was done by the Prevention Access Campaign and the pharmaceutical company Merck, and it revealed an uncomfortable truth: that some people are still ignorant and still hold stigmas towards HIV+ people. As a Millennial, I always found that people in my generation are generally accepting of other people, but when it comes to HIV, it seems that the knowledge just isn’t there.
To get specific, thirty percent of Millennials said that they would not want to interact socially with someone who has HIV, and one in three black and Latino Millennials wouldn’t want to hold hands, share drinks, or share utensils with an HIV+ person, despite the disease being impossible to spread through casual contact. The fact that people are unwilling to even shake someone’s hand if they had HIV speaks to a bigger problem: that younger people aren’t being taught what they need to be taught in sex-ed classes which leads to this stigma. In comparison, forty-one percent of people belonging to Generation Z were also not properly informed about HIV.
Bruce Richman, executive director of the Prevention Access Campaign and the Undetectable Equals Untransmittable campaign, said that he was disturbed that despite many years of HIV awareness and advocacy, young people are still uninformed about the disease. He also said that “these findings are a call to action that the crisis in the United States is far from over. It’s time to elevate a real conversation about HIV and sexual health among America’s young people…” After seeing the results of the study, Merck and the Prevention Access Campaign launched a campaign entitled “Owning HIV: Young Adults and the Fight Ahead.”
The study had a small sample size, with only 1,600 people from the Millennial generation and Generation Z being polled, but the fact that the percentage of people being uninformed about HIV rose with the most recent generation is quite frightening because it reveals just how little people in the US know or care about HIV. It’s not just Millennials and members of Gen Z who are misinformed though, as Donald Trump Jr. perpetuated the myth that HIV positive people are dangerous, which hardly helped the situation. Let’s hope that in the future, people will be better informed about HIV and STIs in general because the lack of comprehensive sex education can only hurt us.