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Nationwide Survey Finds Continuing Stigma and Misinformation About AIDS

July 1998

Contact NIMH: Rayford Kytle
(301) 443-4536

Over 29% of Americans believe that people who got AIDS through sex or drug use have gotten what they deserve, compared to 20% who felt that way in 1991, according to a new study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Gregory Herek, Ph.D., a research psychologist at the University of California at Davis, conducted the research, using scientific telephone survey methods to interview a representative sample of more than 1700 American adults. Today at the World AIDS Conference in Geneva, Dr. Herek reported that approximately half of the new survey respondents incorrectly believed that AIDS might be transmitted through sharing a drinking glass with a person with AIDS, being coughed or sneezed on, or using a public toilet. This represents a slight increase since 1991, when Dr. Herek conducted a similar survey.

"We know from past research that the public is more likely to stigmatize persons with AIDS to the extent that they believe that the virus is easily spread and that people with AIDS should be blamed for their illness," he said.

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