30 November 2007

1 in 3 not aware of Aids

One in three adults in the world's top industrial democracies know little or nothing about Aids, a disease which has killed about 28 million people in 26 years, a poll showed.

One in three adults in the world's top industrial democracies say they know little or nothing about Aids, a disease thought to have killed more than 28 million people in the past 26 years, a poll showed.

But the survey, carried out by Ipsos for the World Vision charity, found that in the seven countries studied, 44 percent of respondents would be willing to pay more taxes to combat Aids, including 50 percent in the United States.

More than 3 500 people in the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan - the Group of Eight countries minus Russia - were interviewed for the survey, released ahead of UN World Aids Day on Saturday.

Richard Stearns, president of World Vision US, a Christian group that says it combats poverty and injustice worldwide, told a United Nations news conference that millions were ignorant of Aids because it was "not real" for them.

'Someone else's problem'
"It's not personal, it is somebody else's problem and somebody else's disease, and very often in a place very, very far away and remote from their everyday lives," he said.

Aids, which attacks the immune system and can be spread by sexual contact or blood transfusion, was first detected in the United States in 1981. World Vision says some 6 000 children a day currently lose a parent to Aids.

The Ipsos poll found that in the countries surveyed, Canadians were the most concerned about Aids and Japanese the least. Japan was also the country where the most people - 53 percent - admitted to little or no knowledge of the disease.

Germans said they were the most knowledgeable, with 80 percent claiming to know "some" or "a lot" about the issue. The comparable figure for the United States was 70 percent.

Some think Aids problem exaggerated
In the countries taken together, one in four people thought the Aids problem had been "greatly exaggerated" by the media, the survey said.

Nevertheless, Stearns said he believed the citizens of the countries polled were "ahead of their governments" in their view of how much should be done to fight Aids.

"I think that goes contrary to the view in Washington," he said. "I don't think Washington realises that that many Americans care about Aids at that level.

"So in a way it gives them the political cover to do more because when you have 50 percent of the country saying 'you could raise my taxes if you could use that money to do more for HIV and Aids,' that's a message that our politicians I think are not aware of," he said.

The United Nations says some 33 million people worldwide are infected by HIV, the virus that causes Aids, including those who have developed the illness. – (Reuters)

Read more:
HIV weak spot spotted


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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