A survey from the UK shows 48% of respondents say they would be uncomfortable kissing someone who is living with HIV, even though 97% of those diagnosed in the UK are virally supressed thanks to modern antiretroviral medications.
The survey, commissioned by the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and executed by YouGov, found high levels of stigma still abound when it comes to HIV.
Multiple studies have shown that people living with HIV and on effective treatment report viral levels as ‘undetectable’ which means the virus can’t be passed on to sexual partners.
The PARTNER study, published in 2016, followed 58,000 instances of sex without a condom where one partner was HIV positive and one was HIV negative.
The resulting research showed there were zero cases of HIV transmission where the HIV+ partner was on effective treatment reducing viral levels to ‘undetectable.’
The PARTNER 2 study, released in May 2019, found zero cases of HIV transmission among 782 serodiscordant couples having condomless sex when the HIV+ partner had undetectable levels of HIV.
Dr. Michael Brady, Medical Director for the Terrence Higgins Trust, says “We are now saying with confidence – and without doubt – that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners.”
But the survey found only 19% of British respondents are aware of that fact. A surprising 41% believe the virus can be passed on even with the virus suppressed in the patient.
Also from the survey:
• 38% would feel uncomfortable going on a date with someone living with HIV
• 64% say they would feel uncomfortable having sex with someone living with HIV
• People aged 35-44 were most comfortable with the proposition of kissing someone with HIV (43%) while older respondents (55+) were much less comfortable (25%)
A campaign by the THT, titled ‘Can’t Pass It On,’ aims to tackle outdated beliefs regarding HIV and the stigma/discrimination associated with the virus.
While noting that condoms are still the most effective way to avoid all sexually transmitted diseases, the campaign hopes to ensure that people know the facts about HIV and effective treatment.
For more info about the THT/YouGov survey, click here.