Australia: HIV Myths Persist Despite Campaigns

In a recent online survey of people ages 18-29 in New South Wales, many held misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted despite awareness campaigns over the years. Some young adults still believe the virus can be transmitted through mosquitoes, sharing cups, and hugging.

More than half of participants thought HIV is transmitted through blood transfusions, and 43 percent thought mosquitoes spread the disease. Even misinformed so, 84 percent of the young adults do not consider themselves at risk of infection.

"Mosquitoes can't transmit [HIV to humans]," said Dr. Catriona Ooi, director of sexual health services in the Hunter New England area of New South Wales. "All blood in New South Wales and certainly in Australia is screened for HIV and other blood-borne viruses."

"The data show that the brunt of the HIV epidemic, with respect to new infections worldwide, is borne by young people, and the situation in Australia is still very much that most of the new infections are occurring in people under the age of 40," said Dr. Roger Garsia, chair of the New South Wales Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV and STIs.

"The younger people today perhaps are not as aware because they don't see themselves as at risk and they don't hear the messages that are out there about HIV," Ooi said. "Certainly education and using condoms with sex are the most important things that we can do, and also to get tested to protect ourselves against HIV."