According to a new survey, HIV-positive women in the United States face strikingly high levels of stigma.
The online survey, conducted by Harris Interactive for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, questioned nearly 5,000 respondents ages 18-44 and covered HIV risk and responsibility, impact of gender-based violence, and women's access to healthcare and health information, as well as attitudes towards HIV-positive women.
The study revealed the pervasive negative views of HIV-positive women and a high level of discomfort in interacting with them.
Many of the responses display a lack of knowledge of how HIV is transmitted and misplaced fear of contracting the virus that indicate a pressing need to scale up preventive education efforts.
Sixty-eight percent of respondents indicated that they would be somewhat or not at all comfortable with an HIV-positive woman as their dentist; 59 percent said they would be somewhat or not at all comfortable with an HIV-positive woman serving as their childcare provider; and 57 percent said they would be somewhat or not at all comfortable having a female physician who is HIV-positive.
One in five respondents would be somewhat or not at all comfortable having a close friend who is HIV positive.
Only 14 percent of respondents felt that HIV-positive women should have children. Currently medication exists to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
With the help of the research, insights were gained into public attitudes about HIV testing.
Nearly 40 percent were sure they had not been tested for HIV. A majority (80 percent) of these respondents indicated that they did not need a test either because they "knew" they did not have HIV or because they didn't think they needed to be tested.
However, respondents overwhelmingly supported expanded HIV testing and 65 percent support making HIV testing part of standard routine healthcare.
The results of the survey have been presented at a press conference at the National Press Club's 13th Floor First Amendment Lounge, 529 14th St. N.W., in Washington, D.C.