“Would You Share My Cup?”

Posted on: 8th November 2011

Whether you are in the US or the UK, the answer could be the same if you are HIV+…..

Following on from my first blog, I finally got some of my classmates to respond to my questionnaire! So here’s how 20 of my fellow American students responded….I wonder how it compares to the study carried out in London schools?

75% of students said they don’t know someone with HIV, but three students do know someone who is HIV positive and one wasn’t sure.

85% had received some education in school

50% of the group thought they hadn’t received enough HIV education while 35% thought they had. From my experience, I don’t think we receive enough information on HIV or we don’t receive it in an effective way. Often, it’s not whether HIV is taught in school, it’s HOW it’s being taught. Educators need to find engaging ways to communicate HIV to make it really count!

This might explain why some 60% feel they need to learn more!

The most interesting part of my study arose through questions around HIV transmission, “How do you think a person can get HIV?” Here are the results…

 

At a glance, there would seem to be some level of knowledge around transmission but when asked the follow up questions, “Would you share a cup with someone with HIV?” and “Would you share a meal with someone with HIV?” the same doubts seem to creep in once again.

Similarly, some 30% would choose not to be treated by a doctor who is HIV+. They all know that you can’t get HIV by someone touching you, but all basic logic seems to evaporate when confronted with a situation such as this.

What is it exactly that they are they afraid of?

Whether it’s secondary students from the UK or university students from the US, the same discrepancies appear when knowledge is tested in real-life situations.

A significant difference between the groups arose in response to the question, “Would you stay friends with someone with HIV?” as 100% of US students said they would remain friends, but 11% of the younger UK students said they would NOT remain friends. Perhaps this was the because the US students are more mature and a greater proportion had experienced HIV education.

In the first study, it says that “whether respondents said they had been taught about HIV in school appears to significantly influence how young people say they would behave towards people who are HIV positive.” and my instinct tells me that therein lies the answer.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve learned that many of my classmates are well-educated on HIV transmission. Most of them responded in the way I expected when reading about kissing and sharing meals. I knew there would be a mix of responses for those types of questions because there is a fear in many people that they will contract HIV. Somehow we need to educate everyone from a young age and continue to teach about HIV every year. One of my friends from my rowing team back home and said that she watched a speaker who talked about losing his partner to an HIV-related illness. She said that “hearing real life stories, in person, makes a huge difference on one’s personal views on a topic.”

How can we get more people to share thier real-life experiences with students? If someone talked about their experience with HIV and explained what it’s like to live with HIV, would you still have a negative feeling towards HIV or a fear of it? The fear that people feel when they find out someone has HIV is like a subconscious barrier. We all want to pretend we would act totally normal around someone with HIV and that we aren’t afraid, but when most of us are put in that situation in real life, we put up a wall. There is a long way to go to reverse the stigma, but I believe it starts with educating students when they’re young and continuing to teach as they get older.

If you have made it this far in the entry, congratulations! This is my last blog entry and I hope you all enjoyed reading these blogs. I have learned so much from volunteering here at Body & Soul and working on this project. Not only did I learn about the UK, but I learned a lot about my own classmates and the views on HIV in the United States. Hopefully I can teach others what I have learned here and help reverse the stigma back home.

So long!



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