Twenty-eight percent of HIV-negative millennials said that they have avoided hugging, talking, or being friends with someone who is HIV-positive, according to a new study from the Prevention Access Campaign and the pharmaceutical company Merck.
Thirty percent of HIV-negative millennials (people between the ages of 23 and 36) said they would avoid interacting socially with someone with HIV.
One in three Black and Latinx millennials reported avoiding even shaking hands or sharing drinks or utensils with someone with HIV.
The study also included members of generation Z, finding that 41 percent of people aged 18-22 were either not at all informed or somewhat informed about HIV, compared to 23 percent of millennials.
“Survey findings show a jarring trend of general confusion and insufficient knowledge of HIV and its transmission, along with the existence of high-risk sexual practices, poor disease management, and stigmatizing behaviors among young adults,” the study’s authors found.
While new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. remained stable between 2012 and 2016, they increased for people aged 25 to 29 during that same time period. Young people now account for a majority of new diagnoses.
In response to the findings, Merck and the Prevention Access Campaign launched a campaign entitled “Owning HIV: Young Adults and the Fight Ahead.”
“Despite scientific advances and decades of HIV advocacy and education, the findings highlight a disturbing trend: young adults overwhelmingly are not being informed effectively about the basics of HIV,” said Bruce Richman, founding executive director, Prevention Access Campaign and the Undetectable Equals Untransmittable (U=U) campaign. “These findings are a call to action that the crisis in the United States is far from over. It’s time to elevate a real conversation about HIV and sexual health among America’s young people, and roll out innovative and engaging initiatives to educate and fight HIV stigma.”
The study found that almost all respondents living with HIV (90%) agree that someone may avoid sharing their status because of the fear of losing friends or family, or experiencing mental, physical or emotional abuse.
Owning HIV was a one-time online survey, fielded by Kantar Group between June 17 and August 5, 2019, of 1,596 Generation Z (Gen Z; 18-22) and millennial (23-36) individuals who self-reported as diagnosed (people living with HIV) or HIV-negative.