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30 years on yet public knowledge of HIV stuck in the past.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Thirty years after the discovery of the virus, new research from NAT (National AIDS Trust) reveals that the public are in the dark about the realities of living with HIV.

One in five (20%) of the general public believe people with HIV can only expect to live ten years after acquiring the virus, even if they are on treatment and not diagnosed late. The reality is that in these circumstances people with HIV can expect to have a normal life expectancy - a fact only 16% of people knew.

Only 5% of those surveyed knew that the chance of passing on HIV through unprotected sex is virtually nil if someone is doing well on treatment.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive at NAT said: "Thanks to, effective treatment the situation for someone who is diagnosed with HIV today is a world away from that faced by someone who was diagnosed when the virus was first discovered 30 years ago. However people's understanding hasn't kept pace with medical advances.” 

The survey revealed over a third (36%) of people wrongly thought that if you are living with HIV you would be banned from working as a nursery school teacher, a chef or with people with mental health problems. In fact the only job someone with HIV can’t do is work in the front-line armed forces – which is the same for anyone with any long-term medical condition requiring daily medication.

A quarter (26%) thought it was illegal to not disclose your HIV status to your beauty therapist, your GP, your tattooist, your dentist, your employer, and someone you are marrying. Actually, you don’t have a legal requirement to disclose your status to anyone, except in very few specific jobs.

Deborah continued: “Misunderstanding and fear about HIV is not only damaging to those living with the virus but makes people reluctant to get tested. In the UK currently one in five people who have HIV don't know they have it. This can have devastating consequences for their health as well as increasing the risk of them passing HIV on to their partner. In the absence of public awareness campaigns or compulsory sex education it is up to individuals to educate themselves and those around them about HIV." 

The research also found some worrying gaps in knowledge amongst young gay men.

Those aged 15-24 consistently knew less than those aged 25-54. This is worrying given HIV diagnoses amongst gay and bisexual young men have doubled over the past ten years.

In response to this knowledge gap, NAT is conducting a nation-wide survey, Boys Who Like Boys: A Survey of Understanding About Sex, which aims to better understand where young gay and bi guys learn about sex, relationships and HIV. The survey is now open and NAT are looking for as many gay and bisexual men, aged 14-19, as possible to take part (survey at

To find out more about the reality of HIV visit

Notes to the editor:

The data contained in the press release was taken from an online quiz available at, created and publicised by NAT. The quiz was taken by 5000 people.

The quiz taken by members of the public around World AIDS Day and was created by NAT as part of its #FactUp campaign to educate people about the realties of living with HIV in the UK in the 21st Century.

For further information please contact:

Suzi Price, communications manager, NAT, 020 7814 6733,


NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expertise and practical resources. We champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.

Shaping attitudes. Challenging injustice. Changing lives.

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