In a shocking revelation, the UK’s National AIDS Trust has announced that over 90 percent of the British public don’t fully understand how HIV is transmitted.

The findings from the organisation’s Public Attitudes Towards HIV Survey, shows that more than 1 out of 5 people in the UK cannot identify each of the main ways in which HIV is transmitted. And only 6 percent surveyed were able to correctly identify all of the ways HIV was transmitted, without any false responses.

The survey, the third of its kind since 2000, was conducted on a representative sample of the British population, to determine people’s attitudes to and understanding of HIV.

The survey also revealed that fewer people in 2007 are able to identify each of the correct ways in which HIV is transmitted than did so in 2000. Over a fifth (21 per cent) did not identify unprotected sex between a man and a woman as a way of contracting HIV. In 2000 just 9 per cent did not identify this route.

In 2007 over a quarter of British people (26 per cent) did not know that unprotected sex between two men is a way of contracting HIV (this was 12 per cent in the 2000 survey).

And 31 per cent of people did not state that sharing a syringe when injecting drugs carries a risk of HIV (this was 12 per cent in the 2000 survey). Five per cent of people wrongly believe you can catch HIV through spitting.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, says; “In recent years we have witnessed knowledge and understanding about HIV decline at the same time that HIV diagnoses have reached an all time high. By 2010 there will be over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK if current trends continue.”

Encouragingly, the survey found a big increase in just two years in the percentage of people who would only stop using condoms in a relationship ‘once we’ve both been tested for sexually transmitted infections and HIV’, up from 12% in 2005 to 24% in 2007, suggesting recent sexual health campaigns have had some impact.

However 24 per cent state they do not use a condom with a new sexual partner as a matter of course (only sometimes, rarely or never).

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