Public confused about how you get HIV.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nearly half (46%) of the general public wrongly think you can get HIV from being bitten, spat at or coming into contact with a discarded needle and underestimate the impact unsafe sex has on HIV transmission, a new survey[1] shows (14 Jan) .

The quiz taken by 12,000 members of the public around World AIDS Day was created by NAT to explore and challenge people’s perceptions about HIV in the UK. It also revealed only 39% of people realise that over 90% of HIV infections in the UK are from unsafe sex.

Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust (NAT), Deborah Jack comments: “We often read stories in the media about people having to take HIV tests after being spat at, bit or stepping on a needle in a park, however the risk from these activities in either non-existent or incredibly low.

“Misinformation about how you can contract HIV leads to anxiety and feeds stigma and discrimination towards people living with the disease. This stigma can be incredibly damaging. It is also an immense distraction from the overwhelming risk factor for HIV in the UK – unsafe sex.”

The quiz also discovered the public think HIV was a bigger problem in the 80s and 90s than in the present day, with 45% believing the highest number of gay men diagnosed in a single year was in the 80s or 90s, however it was actually 2011.

Deborah Jack continues:” It is a common misconception that HIV is a problem of the past. In fact the number of people living with HIV in the UK hit 96,000 in 2011, with 6,280 new diagnoses that year.  As a matter of urgency the Government needs to put resources behind educating people that HIV hasn’t gone away, it is more prevalent than ever and safer sex is vital to reduce HIV transmission.”

Notes to the editor:

The data contained in the press release was taken from an online quiz available at, created and publicised by NAT, running from 26 November 2012 to 14 December 2012. 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.

[1] Are you HIV Aware Quiz question 11 ‘In the last year, how many people were infected with HIV through being bitten, spat at or coming into contact with a discarded needle?’ 46% of people answered between 16-226. The actual answer was none.

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