One-Quarter of Canadians Believe HIV Can Be Transmitted Through Kissing, Mosquito Bites, Poll Says

Approximately one in four Canadians believes HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through kissing and mosquito bites, indicating a "knowledge gap" in the general public regarding the disease, according to a recently released national poll commissioned by Health Canada, CanWest/Calgary Herald reports. Market research firm Ipsos-Reid in March administered the survey -- titled, "HIV/AIDS -- An Attitudinal Survey" -- by telephone to 2,004 Canadians over the age of 15. When participants were asked to name the ways that HIV can be transmitted, 6% of respondents named kissing, 2% named mosquito bites and fewer than 2% named casual contact, coughing or sneezing. However, when respondents were specifically asked about kissing, mosquito bites and coughing and sneezing as possible transmission routes, 25% indicated that kissing and mosquito bites could transmit the virus and 11% said that coughing and sneezing could spread the virus, CanWest/Herald reports. According to the poll, 84% of Canadians said that unsafe sex could transmit HIV; nearly 50% cited sharing injection drug needles as a transmission route; and more than 33% said that blood transfusions could transmit the virus. The poll also found that nearly 20% of participants thought that AIDS could be cured if it was caught and treated early.

The poll also found that "tolerance and comfort levels" around HIV-positive people were high "in theory" but not as much "in practice" among Canadians, CanWest/Herald reports. Approximately 75% of participants said that they did not believe people living with HIV/AIDS "have gotten what they deserve." However, researchers posed a series of six scenarios as part of the poll and found that less than 75% of respondents showed tolerance or acceptance when in "direct contact" with HIV-positive people. According to the report, nearly one in four Canadians surveyed showed a "low level of comfort" with HIV/AIDS, meaning that they said they would be comfortable in only one or two of the six scenarios, compared with 41% who indicated comfort in two or three scenarios and 35% who indicated a high level of comfort. According to current estimates, 49,800 Canadians were HIV-positive in 1999, the most recent year for which data is available. However, the actual number of HIV-positive people could be higher because health experts estimate that 30% of all HIV-positive people in Canada are not aware of their status, CanWest/Herald reports (Aubry, CanWest/Calgary Herald, 9/1).

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