While acknowledging that there is little hope for Human Immunodeficiency Virus-positive people, an overwhelming majority of the Indian population still wrongly believes that there is a cure for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, says a survey.
A global study conducted by the MAC AIDS Fund reveals that nearly 59 per cent of the interviewed people were living with a misconception that HIV/AIDS can be treated successfully.
The report said that 79 per cent of Indians understand that AIDS is always fatal, but 59 per cent still wrongly believe that there is a cure available today.
'Indians rank HIV/AIDS as the most serious health problems facing their country, leading the next perceived issue (cancer) by 51 percentage points,' the survey said.
Indians cite lack of access to information on HIV/AIDS and how it is contracted as the top issue contributing to the spread of the virus. Despite recent awareness campaigns on HIV and AIDS, people still remain uncertain of the facts and realities associated with the disease.
The study also revealed that 65 per cent reported stigma and shame to be major contributing factors and barriers in stemming the epidemic. 'People in India, more than nationals in any other country surveyed, are uncomfortable interacting on intimate levels with those who are HIV positive,' the report said.
It observed that 44 per cent are not comfortable sharing the same physician as someone with HIV or AIDS, while 38 per cent reported that they feel uncomfortable working alongside a person with HIV/AIDS. Forty-one per cent also said they did not want to live in the same house as someone who has the virus.
MAC AIDS Fund, a philanthropic arm of Estee Lauder-owned MAC Cosmetics, viewed that women can play an important role in preventing the disease as the report said a problem contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS is that females find it too difficult to discuss safe sex with their partners.
"The survey results illustrate the urgent need for public access in India to information on HIV and AIDS," MAC AIDS Fund chairman John Demsey said. The study reported that 72 per cent of those surveyed believe that the spread of the disease has grown in global urgency in recent years, and 75 per cent of Indians feel this urgency is reflected in their own country.
"This is a wake-up call that not only do we need to improve basic education about the realities of the disease, including how it is contracted and how it is treated, but also to do some serious on-the-ground work to alleviate the sense of shame and stigma that surrounds the disease and prevents people from being safe and seeking treatment," Demsey added.
As per the study, globally, 76 per cent of respondents reported limited ability to get the latest drugs or treatments for HIV/AIDS, resulting the spread of the disease.
Of those surveyed in India, 59 per cent cited the lack of access to the latest drugs or treatments for HIV/AIDS to be a major issue in combating the virus, with 61 per cent reporting a limited ability to get routine testing and screening for the disease to be an additional major barrier. The survey was carried out in the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa.