Over one third (35%) of people would ‘swipe left’ on a dating app to reject someone living with HIV and on effective treatment, according to HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust.
A further third (31%) ‘don’t know’ which way they’d swipe, while a final third (30%) said they ‘wouldn’t’ swipe left, implying that they’d give the person a chance.
The YouGov research, which explores people’s attitudes towards sex, relationships and HIV, reveals a shocking level of stigma steeped in a severe lack of understanding of HIV transmission.
When presented with the statement ‘I would feel comfortable kissing someone living with HIV on effective treatment’, almost one in two (43%) disagreed with the statement.
Almost one in five (17%) said they weren’t sure, while just over a third (35%) agreed that they would.
Regardless of treatment, HIV cannot be passed on through kissing.
When asked about condomless sex, just 10% of those asked agreed that they’d be comfortable having ‘unprotected’ sex with someone living with HIV and on effective treatment.
Over three quarters of respondents (77%) disagreed with this.
Science has proven that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus onto sexual partners, regardless of whether they use a condom or not.
The PARTNER study examined 58,000 instances of sex between an HIV positive person on effective treatment and a partner without HIV, and there were zero cases of HIV transmission.
Most people are unaware of this, and many still don’t believe it when it’s explained.
When given the statement ‘people on effective HIV treatment can’t pass the virus on’, over half of respondents (55%) said it was false.
Over one third (33%) said they were unsure, while just one in ten (10%) believed it was true.
Sadiq, a circus performer from London who is living with HIV and on effective treatment, said: ‘I find the information that I can’t pass HIV on is always met with surprise.
‘Knowing I can’t pass it on opens up a world where I’m OK to be HIV positive and still have relationships, without the virus being a barrier.
‘The Can’t Pass It On campaign gives people living with HIV a very easy way to inform and educate without having to get into specifics.’
Ian Green, Chief Executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘It’s so important to get this message out to as many people as possible. We hear on a near daily basis how out of date beliefs about how HIV is passed on are negatively affecting the lives and mental health of people with HIV, and it urgently needs to change.
‘Amazing medical progress has been made, but knowledge of HIV quite clearly hasn’t kept up with that progress. Effective treatment means HIV shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone doing anything they want to and that includes having a fulfilling relationship and sex life. We all have a role to play in this and it’s high time for everyone to stop doubting the science and accept the realities of HIV as that’s the best way to tackle the abhorrent stigma that still surrounds the virus.
‘It’s truly devastating to hear that so many wouldn’t swipe right for or even kiss someone living with HIV who’s on effective treatment. We’ve known for three decades that HIV can’t be passed on through day-to-day contact and that includes kissing.’
Find out more about HIV transmission at www.tht.org.uk/cantpassiton
Note on methodology:
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.
Total sample sizes were 2,060 adults and 2,184 adults, of which 191 and 170 were gay/lesbian and bisexual adults.
Fieldwork was undertaken between 26-27 June 2018 and 19-20 June 2018.
The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).