Survey shows Indian leaders misinformed about HIV/AIDS

Anthony Cuesta | August 25, 2006

Anjali Gopalan, executive director of Naz Foundation India
Nearly two thirds of parliamentarians in India are misinformed about HIV and believe the virus can spread by sharing clothes with an infected person, a survey said Wednesday.

According to Reuters UK, the poll of 250 members in India's lower and upper houses of parliament, roughly a third of the total, showed that 56 percent felt a person could catch the HIV virus by sharing food and utensils with an infected person.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the survey had some "provocative" findings.

"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," he told lawmakers late on Wednesday, Reuters UK reports.

The International Herald Tribute reports that of the 250 lawmakers surveyed – 157 from the lower house of Parliament and 93 from the upper chamber – 64 percent said they believed the disease could be passed on by sharing clothes with an infected person, 56 percent said the HIV virus could be transmitted by sharing food and cooking utensils with someone with the disease, and 40 percent said that there was a risk of transmission among people working alongside each other.

The United Nations AIDS agency, UNAIDS, said in May that with 5.7 million people infected, India had edged in front of South Africa to become the country with the largest number of people carrying the HIV virus.

But activists told reporters that the figure is higher as many people in rural areas may not know their status, while deaths due to AIDS are often ascribed to other diseases like tuberculosis.

Officials say one of the biggest problems they face in combating AIDS is misconceptions about how the virus is spread in a nation where open talk of sex is frowned on by many.

"I am not surprised at all," said Anjali Gopalan, executive director of Naz Foundation India, a leading anti-AIDS group, reports The IHT. "It shows that despite our efforts, we still have a lot more to do as the message is just not getting across." – Issued by Gay Link Content

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