A new study shows an inordinate percentage of Americans say they wouldn’t feel comfortable interacting with a doctor or barber living with HIV.
The GLAAD 2021 State of HIV Stigma Study is a national survey in partnership with the Gilead COMPASS Initiative measuring American attitudes toward HIV and people living with HIV.
The study was conducted between January 14, 2021, and January 29, 2021, and surveyed 2,517 U.S. adults 18-years-old or over.
The results show less than half of Americans, 48%, feel knowledgeable about HIV. That’s 3 points lower than a year ago.
That lack of knowledge translates into how comfortable or uncomfortable people are regarding interacting with those living with HIV.
Of the non-LGBTQ people surveyed:
• 53% said they would be uncomfortable interacting with a medical professional who has HIV
• 44% indicated they wouldn’t be comfortable with a barber or hair stylist living with HIV
• 35% said the same about being around a teacher who was HIV positive
The highest level of discomfort was expressed by folks living in the South (54%) and Midwest (54%) parts of the U.S. and notably lower in the Northeast (45%) and the West (45%).
“The Deep South has the highest rates of HIV diagnosis, yet the study reveals that the U.S. South also has some of the highest discomfort levels pertaining to the virus,” reads the foreword to the study. “This is a perfect storm for the perpetuation of misinformation.”
While 64% agreed with the true statement, “Medications exist to protect against contracting HIV,” only 42% seemed aware that “If on proper medication, people with HIV cannot transmit it” is also true.
On a more positive note, 56% of non-LGBTQ respondents said they are aware of seeing more stories about people living with HIV in the media, up from 52% in 2020.
Click over to GLAAD for more details about the survey as well as steps the Gilead COMPASS Initiative is taking to address HIV stigma.