One third of people think HIV can be caught from toothbrush - survey

Stephen Fry backs UK campaign for World Aids Day to raise awareness of realities

Stephen Fry: “World Aids Day gives us all a chance to reflect and come together to celebrate the real progress that has been made.”

Stephen Fry: “World Aids Day gives us all a chance to reflect and come together to celebrate the real progress that has been made.”

 

Almost a third of people in Britain think you can catch HIV by sharing a toothbrush with someone who is infected, according to a survey.

The YouGov study also shows that one in 10 people believe the virus can be transmitted through sharing scissors at the hairdresser.

The findings, released on December 1st – World Aids Day – show that “inaccurate myths” remain entrenched, the Terrence Higgins Trust, a leading sexual health charity has said.

A campaign, backed by actor Stephen Fry, has been launched by the charity to encourage people to wear red ribbons to raise awareness.

“We saw our friends, lovers and families die,” said Fry, “and a generation of friends were lost and bright, beautiful lights were snuffed out before their time. As a community, we are still recovering from that awful time. But World Aids Day gives us all a chance to reflect and come together to celebrate the real progress that has been made.”

The findings also show that 58 per cent of Britons believe people with HIV can live into old age. Less than a third (29 per cent) know that those on effective treatment can have children without passing the virus on.

Gripped by panic

“We’ve come a long way since the Aids crisis first emerged, when the nation was gripped by panic and fear,” Ian Green, chief executive of the charity. “But it’s not over. While science has moved on, we can see today that inaccurate myths from the 1980s are still deeply entrenched in society, both in terms of how HIV is transmitted, and what it’s like to live with HIV.

“Misunderstanding of the virus can fuel stigma and cause immense distress for people coming to terms with an HIV diagnosis.”

Some 6,000 people were diagnosed in the UK last year. Some 90,000 now live with the virus and access care, according to Public Health England.

Four in 10 diagnoses are “late”, meaning the virus has already begun damaging the immune system – a situation branded “unacceptable” by the charity.

Mr Green has praised the “Prince Harry effect”. Demand for self-check kits increased fivefold “almost immediately” after the royal was pictured being tested in July.

“I wear my red ribbon as a way of remembering all those we lost,” Mr Fry said. “We must never forget, and never give up the fight against HIV.”

The YouGov survey was carried out online in October. It had a total sample size of 2,030 representative adults.

–(PA)