Over 29% of Americans believe that people who got AIDS through sex or drug use have
gotten what they deserve, compared to 20% who felt that way in 1991, according to a new
study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
Gregory Herek, Ph.D., a research psychologist at the University of California at Davis,
conducted the research, using scientific telephone survey methods to interview a
representative sample of more than 1700 American adults. Today at the World AIDS
Conference in Geneva, Dr. Herek reported that approximately half of the new survey
respondents incorrectly believed that AIDS might be transmitted through sharing a drinking
glass with a person with AIDS, being coughed or sneezed on, or using a public toilet. This
represents a slight increase since 1991, when Dr. Herek conducted a similar survey.
"We know from past research that the public is more likely to stigmatize persons with
AIDS to the extent that they believe that the virus is easily spread and that people with
AIDS should be blamed for their illness," he said.
NIMH is one of the 18 institutes that make up the National Institutes of Health, part of the
Department of Health and Human Services. Information about NIMH research, programs
and policies can be found at the NIMH web site: http://www.nimh.nih.gov.