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25 years of HIV and AIDS from Poland's perspective

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Since the early 1980s, 22 million have died from Aids and 60 million have been affected by the HIV virus. UNAIDS estimates that around 2.3 million people were living with HIV in the European region in late 2010. Throughout the years 1 December, World Aids Day, has become a key date in the international calendar - but do we know more or less?

On 1 December 2012, like every year, world aids day was celebrated all around Europe. Cities such as Warsaw, London, Madrid and Paris hosted concerts, debates, film screenings, gigs and exhibitions. But do these events help us understand HIV and Aids ('acquired immunodeficiency syndrome', first used in1982- ed) better? Has our knowledge about the virus leading to the illness - which has become preventable and treatable in its 25-year history - broadened over the years? European reports would say the contrary.

Do you know?

According to the research conducted by professor Zbigniew Izdebski, a scientific affiliate of the kinsey institute for research in sex, gender and reproduction, awareness in Poland has decreased. In a report devoted to the sexual habits of Poles and their knowledge about HIV, Izdebski shows that Poles are becoming also less and less tolerant towards those infected with the virus. As much as 80% of respondents claimed HIV infections can come from simply touching a person suffering from Aids, whereas 51% think that one can get infected by using a public toilet. 80% of people taking part in the survey were convinced that a healthy diet could help avoid the infection, a conviction which is very far from the truth.

Data published in Spainis not less worrying, according to the research carried out by María Jesús Fuster from the Spanish national university of distance education (UNED) in 2011. 55% of Spaniards think that the infection can be spread via a mosquito bite. A 2011 BBC report points out that France, Italy and Spain have 'around twice the number of people with HIV as the UK'. Yet reports published in the UK in 2011 show that the awareness of HIV and Aids has also fallen significantly in recent years. On 1 December prime minister David Cameron pointed out that 25, 000 people in the UK did not know they have the virus.

Those living in eastern Europe still have limited access to information about the virus

Research conducted in the EU shows that the level of knowledge about the virus and the illness is still quite low. The reasons for that seem to be twofold. Firstly, it seems that in the western European countries HIV and Aids have become a secondary problem. As the issues are no longer the focus of media attention, the public is becoming less concerned about them. On the other hand, those living in eastern Europe still have limited access to information about the virus. HIV and Aids remain taboo topics. There is still a stigma attached to those infected. Many eastern Europeans tend to associate the infection with marginal groups, such as prostitutes and drug addicts. Although many countries have seen a decrease in the new HIV infections, every day nearly 7, 000 people contract HIV. The numbers are still big and, without the proper media coverage and educational campaigns, they will not change.

Image: main (cc) stephanie ★/ stephanie kac official site/ flickr/ videos: Euro 2012 (cc) MrPozytywni and (cc)  marketingprzykawie/ youtube

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