About AIDS

Will public's beliefs about AIDS matter?

Citizens of the US hold some interesting – and potentially useful – beliefs about HIV/AIDS, especially about the global epidemic. This is the conclusion of a recent national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A majority of Americans (56%) believe in greater funding to stop the world epidemic, while only 9% say we spend too much. Further; 55% now believe that spending more money on prevention in developing countries will actually help – a dramatic increase over 2002 (40%). The concept of prevention is always a tough sell, while getting AIDS drugs to the emaciated patients, often children, featured in TV documentaries more easily touches people. Ultimately, of course, prevention will have to be the real – and realistically funded – answer; waiting for a vaccine invites global disaster even greater than we have now.

Kaiser also finds that Americans overwhelmingly (71%) get their AIDS information from the media. Only 9% get it from their doctors. That doesn't surprise those of us in the field, but it highlights the need for working with and providing information to the community's journalists.

This election time ought to be a good opportunity to get some forward motion on AIDS issues by eliciting support from candidates on the campaign trail – then supporting those who believe HIV/AIDS is important. Unfortunately, one side seems intent on deflecting discussion of the real, often difficult issues of the day, preferring instead a kind of political charade. It remains to be seen whether this opportunity will pass unseized.

(To read the "Survey of Americans on HIV/AIDS," go to www.kff.org.)

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