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GLOBAL: Poll ranks AIDS as top health issue

Johannesburg, 14 July 2010 (IRIN) - AIDS is the world’s most important health-care issue according to people all over the world who were polled for their perceptions of the AIDS epidemic in a new survey commissioned by UNAIDS.

Optimism about the state of the global AIDS epidemic and progress in responding to it varied widely, often along geographical lines. In sub-Saharan Africa, where most HIV infections occur, 31 percent of respondents chose the term "getting worse" to describe the issue, while another 30 percent chose "tragic". In South and Southeast Asia participants were more likely to see the situation as "hopeful" or "manageable".

Nearly half of all respondents were optimistic that the spread of HIV could be stopped by 2015 with the proper use of resources, although pessimism reigned in some countries, including Japan, the United Kingdom and Ukraine.

While 44 percent of all respondents said the world was not responding effectively to AIDS, those in Eastern Europe, the USA and sub-Saharan Africa were most likely to express this view, yet 75 percent of respondents in the Caribbean, and 53 percent in South and Southeast Asia, believed the opposite was true.

Perceptions of country and community responses were also divided, with Senegal giving their country the highest approval rating, closely followed by Uganda and Jamaica.

Less than one percent of Ukrainian respondents believed their country was responding effectively to AIDS; Russia and Latvia fared slightly better, and just 16 percent of South Africans were convinced that their country's response was effective.

Respondents were more likely to agree that AIDS was a problem in their country than in their community. In the USA, for example, about 70 percent thought it was a problem for the country but only a third felt it was a problem in their community.

One in three people considered public awareness about AIDS as the greatest achievement of responses to the epidemic, but more than half the respondents also viewed a lack of awareness as the greatest obstacle to HIV responses.

Fast Facts
92% agreed the AIDS epidemic is important
42% did not think their country was responding effectively
47% were optimistic the spread of HIV could be stopped by 2015
52% were not personally worried about HIV
71% felt AIDS resources should go to prevention
65% felt people who inject drugs should receive treatment
Source: UNAIDS
A lack of funding and resources were also seen as major obstacles, but nearly six in 10 felt governments had a role to play in providing treatment for their HIV-positive citizens. The perception that people living with HIV should receive subsidized treatment was strongest in the Caribbean and Asia, but less than half the participants in the USA agreed.

Almost half the respondents felt stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV were significant obstacles to HIV responses, but 20 percent said they would not work with an HIV-positive person. Acceptance of people living with HIV was highest in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.

Most people did not feel they were personally at risk of acquiring HIV, regardless of where they lived. Only 25 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa felt they were at risk, while people in Australia and the USA were least worried about contracting HIV.

Nearly 12,000 adults in 25 countries responded to the online survey, which was conducted between March and May 2010.

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Theme (s): HIV/AIDS (PlusNews),

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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