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Many Indian Parliamentarians Hold Incorrect Beliefs About HIV Transmission, Survey Says

August 24, 2006

Nearly two-thirds of India's Parliament members incorrectly believe HIV is transmitted by sharing clothing, food, toilets and office spaces, according to a survey released to the Parliament on Wednesday, AP/ reports (Rabinowitz, AP/, 8/24). According to the "Person-to-Person" survey -- released by India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and conducted by the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development -- 40 percent of the 250 parliamentarians surveyed said they believe HIV can be spread by working with an HIV-positive person; 56 percent think sharing food and utensils increases the risk of acquiring the virus; and 22.8 percent believe it is spread by using the same toilet seat as a person living with HIV/AIDS (Iyer, Hindustan Times, 8/23). The poll finds that 46 percent of Indian lawmakers are unaware that an HIV-positive mother can transmit the infection to her infant and that 64 percent incorrectly believe it can be spread by sharing clothes with an HIV-positive person (AP/, 8/24). According to the survey, 76.4 percent of parliamentarians know that unprotected sex with multiple partners increases the risk of contracting HIV and that condoms can reduce such risks; 79.6 percent are aware that tainted needles can transmit HIV; and 48 percent are aware that HIV can be transmitted through blood transfusion (Hindustan Times, 8/23). All parliamentarians surveyed said they had heard of HIV/AIDS and reported hearing about the disease from the media (AP/, 8/24). "I believe this brings together some very interesting and provocative material on the perceptions and approach of our elected representatives in a vital area of national policy." Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday. "I am not surprised at all," Anjali Gopalan, executive director of Naz Foundation India Trust, said, adding, "It shows that despite our efforts, we still have a lot more to do as the message is just not getting across" (Reuters, 8/24). According to a UNAIDS report, India has about 5.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/5).

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