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Public Perception of AIDS Prevention

Some 19.9 percent of Chinese people say they have never heard of AIDS or HIV and only 4.7 percent has ever had an HIV test, according to a recent survey.

The survey, by Futures Group Europe and Horizon Market Research, showed that 96.2 percent of city residents surveyed and 82.6 percent surveyed in towns had heard of AIDS and HIV while the rate was only 75.1 percent in rural areas.

However, only 13.4 percent of the surveyed knew all three routes of HIV infection, that is, blood, sex and mother to child transmission, and in rural areas the percentage reduced to 7.1 percent.

The survey was done by Horizon Market Research from August to September this year covering 3,968 people sampled from six cities including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, seven towns and eight rural areas in six provinces like north China's Hebei Province, east China's Fujian Province and southwest China's Sichuan Province.

It showed that just 21.4 percent of the surveyed knew HIV can be transmitted through sex, compared with 73.3 percent who were aware that HIV can be transmitted through sharing needles.

According to the Ministry of Health, China now has about 840,000 HIV-positive population and 80,000 AIDS patients. Most of them are infected through sharing needles, infected blood or sexual transmission.

Zeng Yi, chairman of the Chinese Foundation for Prevention of STD and AIDS, told Xinhua Wednesday that Chinese society, government, non-government organizations and citizens, should invest more money in educating people about AIDS.

"If every Chinese donates two yuan (about 24 US cents), we can promise that in three years 6 million Chinese will be spared from the virus because of the timely and effective education," Zeng said.

The survey showed some 78 percent of the surveyed felt safe and at low risk of catching HIV. Only 0.9 percent said they were exposed to the virus.

Only 5.7 percent planned to have an HIV test or another test in the future.

Although only 1.8 percent of the surveyed admitted having sex with more than one person in the past four weeks, some 20.7 percent said they never use condoms when having sex with a non-regular partner and only 1.9 percent said they always used condoms.

"People are still inclined to look on condoms as tools for birth control instead of something to guard their health," said Wang Zhenxiu, assistant social marketing manager with the Futures Group Europe, which is operating a condom marketing program under the China-UK HIV/AIDS Prevention and Care Project in southwest China's Yunnan and Sichuan provinces.

In the survey, 20.3 percent people linked the word condom to protection from pregnancy and 16.4 percent linked it to sex but only 2.6 percent to protecting from AIDS and sex-transmitted diseases (STD).

The survey showed that after years of AIDS education, the stigma against HIV-positive people had eased. Some 66.1 percent knew that it was impossible to get HIV by sharing a meal and 50.1 percent said they would care for HIV-positive family members.

But still some 77.2 percent of the surveyed did not agree that an HIV infected colleague should be allowed to continue to work.

(Xinhua News Agency November 30, 2003)

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