SEVEN in ten Cypriots have not been tested for the HIV virus because they believe they are not at risk, while three in four said they would not have a relationship with an HIV-positive person, an online poll released on Thursday found.
According to the Aids Support Movement’s Christos Krasides, who presented the findings of a poll among 656 respondents in Cyprus from September to December 2016, Aids/HIV ranked second in “most alarming condition” at 19 per cent, with cancer topping the list.
Over 95 per cent of Cypriots said they know what HIV is, while all responded that they know what Aids is.
In response to “what word springs to mind when you hear the word Aids”, 44 per cent said “incurable disease” and 27 per cent “sex”.
Almost half of respondents said hearing of the HIV virus or Aids causes them concern, with 17 per cent reporting stress, while more than half said they were educated on the virus and the disease online, with only one in three reported having acquired education from school.
Seven in ten said they have never been tested for the virus because they are “not at risk”.
Asked on the possible ways of contracting the virus, 98 per cent said “unprotected sex” and 92 per cent said “blood or transfusion”.
Almost seven in ten believe there is no cure for Aids, in contrast with 19 per cent who believe the disease is curable.
Three in four said they would support their partner or a close relative or friend, if they were to find out they had contracted HIV, with 3 per cent stating they would distance themselves.
In the workplace, half said they would support an HIV-positive person, and 69 per cent claimed their attitude toward this person would be unaffected.
Over eight in 10 of respondents said they would avoid sexual contact with an HIV carrier, whereas three in four would not enter a relationship with one.
On whether women carriers of the HIV virus can rear children, 76 per cent said they can, 5 per cent said they can’t, and 19 per cent did not know.
On the likelihood of HIV-positive pregnant women transferring the virus to the foetus, 63 per cent said the odds are “significant” and 15 per cent “minimal”.
Seven in ten respondents said they don’t know any HIV-positive people.
Speaking at the news conference on behalf of Health minister Giorgos Pamboridis, infectious disease specialist Dr Linos Hadjihannas said Cyprus has very low rates of HIV virus infections overall, but an alarming increase in new incidents has been recorded in Europe in recent years, involving mostly young gay men, as well as individuals engaging in dangerous sexual activity.
According to Hadjihannas, “prejudice, lack of education, and misunderstanding with regard to the HIV virus tend to preserve the increasing trend and obstruct effective control of the disease’s spreading”.
Europe saw over 153,000 new incidents of HIV infections in 2015, a record number since the outbreak of the Aids epidemic in the 1980s, he noted.
“Specifically, there has been a significant increase in infections between men who had sexual contact with men in western and central Europe, as well as heterosexual women in Eastern Europe,” he said.