WASHINGTON - The Kaiser Family Foundation today released its eighth large-scale national survey of Americans on HIV/AIDS.
As the HIV/AIDS epidemic marks its thirtieth year the key findings of the report include:
Black Americans, and particularly young blacks, express much higher levels of concern about HIV infection than whites. Blacks are four times as likely as whites to say they are "very concerned" about becoming infected with HIV (40 % vs. 11%).
Black adults under 30 are even more likely to be worried, with half saying they are very concerned. Blacks are also more than twice as likely as whites to say a close friend or family member is living with HIV or has died from AIDS (41% vs. 17%), and almost three times as likely to see HIV/AIDS as an increasingly urgent problem for their community (35% vs. 12%).
Still, at a time when the HIV epidemic continues to place a disproportionate burden on the black community, many key measures of concern and visibility are not increasing for blacks, and are in fact flat or trending downward over time.
For example, the share of blacks saying HIV/AIDS is a more urgent problem for their community than it was a few years ago fell from 49 percent in 2006 to 35 percent today.
Reported HIV testing rates are flat since 1997, including among some key groups at higher risk. Just over half of non-elderly adults say they have ever been tested for HIV, and about one in five say they have been tested in the past 12 months, a share that has remained about the same since 1997.
Blacks, Latinos, and younger adults are more likely than others to say they’ve had a recent HIV test, but reported testing rates for these groups have also been flat over the past 14 years.
This despite the fact that five years ago the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending routine HIV screening in health care settings for everyone ages 13 to 64.
While the share of non-elderly adults who say a health care provider has ever suggested they be tested for HIV ticked up from 19 percent in 2009 to 29 percent in 2011 (and from 31 percent to 41 percent among non-elderly blacks), there has been no increase in reports of actually getting an HIV test.
Thirty years into the epidemic, there is a declining sense of national urgency and visibility of HIV/AIDS. In 1987, two-thirds of Americans named HIV/AIDS as the most urgent health problem facing the country, a share that has declined steadily over the years, and sits at just 7 percent today. More recently, there has been a decline in the share who report having seen, heard, or read about the epidemic in the past year, from seven in ten in 2004 to four in ten today.
At the same time, after nearly a decade of decline, the share of Americans who say they are personally "very concerned" about becoming infected ticked up for the first time in this year’s survey. The change was driven by young adults, among whom personal concern increased from 17 percent in 2009 to 24 percent in 2011.
Many Americans still hold attitudes that may stigmatize people with HIV/AIDS, but such reported attitudes have declined in recent years. Substantial shares say they they’d be uncomfortable having food prepared by someone who is HIV-positive (45%); having an HIV-positive roommate (36%); having their child in a class with an HIV-positive teacher (29%); and working with someone with HIV (18%).
Still, the trend on these questions generally has been in the other direction; for instance, the share of Americans saying they would be "very comfortable" working with someone who has HIV increased from about a third in 1997 to roughly half in 2011. There have also been real declines since the early years of the epidemic in the share expressing the view that AIDS is a punishment (from 43% in 1987 to 16% today) or that it’s people’s own fault if they contract the disease (from 51% to 29%).
Despite continuing economic problems, more than half of Americans support increased funding for HIV/AIDS, and fewer than one in ten say the federal government spends too much in this area. Younger adults express even higher levels of support and a majority of them are optimistic that more spending on prevention and treatment will lead to meaningful progress. The public overall, however, is split on whether more funding in those areas will lead to progress.
Media, which includes radio, television, newspapers and online sources, is the top information source on HIV across racial/ethnic groups and for younger and older adults alike. Six in ten Americans say most of what they know about HIV/AIDS comes from the media, putting it ahead of other sources like school, their doctors, friends and family, and the church. Substantial shares of the public -- and majorities of blacks and Latinos -- say they’d like to have more information on HIV-related topics, including prevention and testing.
Three-quarters of Americans could not name an individual who stands out as a national leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and no person who was mentioned makes it into double digits. And most Americans say there has not been enough action on HIV from a variety of groups and institutions including Congress; their state and local governments; the media; corporate, religious, and community leaders; pharmaceutical companies; and the Obama administration.
"Our eighth HIV survey shows that while great progress has been made in the fight against HIV and AIDS over the last 30 years, big challenges remain," said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman. "Clear challenges that emerge from the survey are to mobilize greater efforts to help the most affected communities and to accelerate progress on HIV testing."
"There are communities in America where the majority of people are personally worried about becoming infected," said Mollyann Brodie, a senior vice president and director of Public Opinion and Survey Research at the Foundation. "This heightened personal concern is especially evident among black Americans. When six in ten black parents tell you they are very worried about the possibility of their child contracting HIV/AIDS someday -- three times as many as among white parents -- you know that the epidemic is affecting different groups of Americans in different ways."