Survey finds support for AIDS education
March 26, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new survey has found that U.S. citizens support increased AIDS education and more widespread availability of AIDS information, including depictions of safe sex in the entertainment media and more condom ads on television.
The survey, conducted by The Kaiser Family Foundation, also found support for providing condoms in schools and distributing clean needles to IV drug users.
Americans also appear to be grappling with AIDS at home. Parents who responded to the survey said what they need most is help talking with their children about AIDS prevention.
In AIDS education, 95 percent of the respondents said AIDS information should be provided in schools, with 69 percent saying children should start receiving AIDS/HIV education at the latest by age 12.
But respondents split on how to promote AIDS prevention among high school students: 49 percent said they should get only information on AIDS and HIV, while 46 percent said making condoms available to high school students also should be a priority.
Seventy-two percent said the major television networks should accept condom ads and 63 percent said there should be more references to condom use in movies and television.
Sixty-six percent said they favor providing clean needles to IV drug users.
Parents and AIDS
When asked about the information they want most about AIDS, 49 percent of parents who responded said they need more information about "what to discuss with children about prevention." Twelve percent said they most want information about where to go for help if exposed to the AIDS virus.
Among parents with children under 21 years old, 77 percent said they are concerned about their child getting AIDS, with 53 percent of those parents said they are very concerned.
As for personal concern about AIDS, four out of 10 Americans said they were concerned about getting AIDS themselves. Among those, 22 percent said they were "very concerned" and 18 percent said they were "somewhat concerned."
In a 1991 survey conducted by the Roper Organization, 27 percent of Americans said they were "very concerned" and 18 percent said they were "somewhat concerned" about getting AIDS.
Forty-three percent of those surveyed said AIDS is a "very serious" problem for people they know, while 39 percent said they personally know or have known someone with AIDS or HIV.
Nearly three in four said they agree that "people who get AIDS are no different from people like me in their values and goals."
Forty-four percent of those surveyed named AIDS as the "most urgent health problem" facing the United States. Cancer was second, identified by 27 percent, the same percentage that named rising health care costs and lack of health care coverage. These ratings are generally consistent with earlier survey findings from six years ago in a Los Angeles Times Poll.
Nearly half of those survey -- 48 percent -- said they fear that the United States is "losing ground" in the fight against AIDS.
More research, spending urged
Half of those surveyed said federal spending to fight AIDS is "too low" compared with spending on other health and medical problems. Eighty-one percent said a greater investment in AIDS research would be effective in fighting the spread of AIDS, and 58 percent said federal spending on AIDS research and treatment of people with AIDS has been worth the cost.
In questions measuring people's knowledge of AIDS, 51 percent of those surveyed incorrectly said that a person can get AIDS while "giving or donating blood for use by others." There have been no known cases of HIV transmission as a result of donating blood. People may have been confused by the potential risk from receiving blood transfusions, a risk that has been virtually eliminated by screening techniques.
But the fear of donating blood might also have been boosted by the fact that 34 percent of those surveyed said they do not believe the government is telling the whole truth about AIDS, and a quarter said they don't believe the media is telling the whole truth.
Eighteen percent said they believe there is some truth to reports that the AIDS virus was produced in a germ-warfare laboratory, and 12 percent said they believe AIDS came from God to punish homosexual behavior, despite the fact that it does not strike only homosexuals.
The national random-sample telephone survey of 1,511 adults 18 years and older, including 250 African Americans and 250 Hispanics, was conducted between November 27 and December 17, 1995 -- prior to the announcement by Magic Johnson, who is HIV positive, that he would resume playing professional basketball.
Margin of sampling error for the national sample was put at plus or minus three percentage points. It is higher for smaller sub-sets of the respondents.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, based in Menlo Park, California, is a non-profit, independent national health care philanthropy and is not associated with Kaiser Permanente or Kaiser Industries. The Foundation's work is focused on four main areas: health policy, reproductive health, HIV, and health and development in South Africa.
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