6 Out of 10 Heterosexual Adults in America Have Not Been Tested for HIV, New National Survey Finds

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Six out of 10 (59 percent) heterosexual adults report that they have never been tested for the HIV/AIDS virus compared to only a third (35 percent) of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) adults -- timely findings as World AIDS Day is observed on Dec. 1, 2003.

At a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports HIV infection on the rise in youth and young adults in the United States, two-thirds (67 percent) of young adults ages 18 to 24 responded they have never received an HIV test. However, 58 percent of African Americans and 45 percent of Hispanics -- both populations disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS -- indicate they have been tested for HIV at least once, compared to only 33 percent of white Americans.

These are highlights from a nationwide Witeck-Combs Communications/Harris Interactive study of 2,056 adults of whom approximately 7 percent self-identified as GLBT. The survey was conducted online Oct. 21-27, 2003 by Harris Interactive, a worldwide market research and consulting firm, in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc., a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm with special expertise in the GLBT market and on health and disability issues.

One disturbing finding is that 8 out of 10 heterosexual adults say the No. 1 reason for not being tested for HIV is that they do not consider themselves at risk for HIV, an indication that more HIV/AIDS prevention education is needed for heterosexual Americans.

"As World AIDS Day approaches, these numbers are a very sobering reminder that federal, state and local governments, public health officials, healthcare providers, and community and faith-based organizations face significant hurdles in curbing the spread of HIV in America," said Darin Johnson, vice president for Witeck-Combs Communications. "We found that complacency about HIV risk continues to be widespread among all populations and demographics."

"It is particularly alarming that 22 years into the AIDS epidemic, we are still faced with fundamental misunderstandings about HIV and AIDS", said Ana Oliveira, executive director of Gay Men's Health Crisis. "Eighty percent of heterosexuals are not getting tested because AIDS is still considered by many to be a 'gay' disease. However, HIV is contingent on risk behavior, and does not discriminate."

Other key findings from this survey include:

* A significant majority of heterosexual and GLBT respondents say their

healthcare provider did not discuss HIV/AIDS testing and/or prevention

with them during their last medical appointment (only 3 percent of

heterosexuals vs. 12 percent of GLBT said their provider discussed HIV testing,

while 2 percent of heterosexuals vs. 10 percent of GLBT said their provider discussed

HIV prevention).

* The most common response among those who have been tested, when asked

where they had been tested last for HIV, was a health care provider's

office (34 percent GLBT vs. 39 percent heterosexual), followed by a hospital (21 percent GLBT

vs. 16 percent heterosexual). Other testing sites include a community health

center (12 percent GLBT vs. 8 percent heterosexual), public health department (7 percent GLBT

vs. 5 percent heterosexual), or the workplace (4 percent GLBT vs. 7 percent heterosexual).

* Of those who have been tested for HIV, GLBT adults are less likely to

learn the results of their test compared to heterosexual adults (79 percent

GLBT vs. 90 percent heterosexual).

* Engaging in risky behavior (45 percent) and entering into a new intimate

relationship (44 percent) were the top reasons reported by GLBT respondents for

getting tested for HIV. Overall, 43 percent of heterosexuals and 49 percent of African

Americans surveyed said their top reason for getting tested was that it

was offered by their health care provider as part of a routine visit.

* The rapid-response HIV test, which produces test results in less than

20 minutes, was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug

Administration for use in clinical settings. Only 19 percent of GLBT and 5 percent of

heterosexual respondents said they were extremely or very likely to get

a rapid-response HIV test during their next visit with their healthcare

provider now that such tests are available.

* GLBT (84 percent) and heterosexual (73 percent) respondents agreed that people living

with HIV or AIDS are often discriminated against because of their

condition.

"It seems that healthcare providers and patients continue to feel discomfort in talking about HIV/AIDS testing and prevention issues even when the survey tells us that doctor's offices and hospitals are the most common site for HIV testing and counseling," said David Krane, senior vice president for Harris Interactive.

"The results of this survey are illustrative of the critical work that lies ahead for HIV/AIDS service organizations across the country," said Paul Kawata, executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council, Washington, D.C. "The question for all of us is: Are our messages resonating with people who are at risk of infection? It's clear we need to increase our collective efforts to provide basic HIV/AIDS education for individuals and groups around stigma, at-risk behavior, testing and counseling services, and prevention."

Source: Harris Interactive; Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc.

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