Published January, 2011

HIV/AIDS AT 30: A PUBLIC OPINION PERSPECTIVE, Kaiser Family Foundation (2011)

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a national survey report on public opinion towards HIV/AIDS to mark the 30th year of the epidemic. The survey report findings include a declining sense of urgency regarding HIV/AIDS (only 7% of Americans think of HIV as the most urgent health problem facing the country). Stigmatizing attitudes regarding people with HIV still persist, but they are declining compared to previous years. Additionally, most Americans continue to support government spending to combat HIV, despite the economic recession.

The report especially focuses on the survey responses of African Americans and Americans under the age of 30. The report finds that African Americans overall, and young African Americans in particular, are more concerned about HIV infection than the rest of the populace. This is not unreasonable since the impact of HIV/AIDS is also felt more strongly in the black community, with African Americans more than twice as likely as white Americans to say a close friend or family member is living with or died of HIV/AIDS. Young Americans in general feel more concerned about HIV infection than other age groups, with black and Latino young people feeling especially concerned about the disease affecting themselves and the people they know.

Especially of note are the study's implications for "opt-out" testing (where an HIV test is performed unless a patient specifically declines the test, replacing "opt-in" testing in many places around the country in recent years). The Kaiser report finds that HIV testing rates have remained flat since 1997, even among high-risk groups such as blacks, Latinos and younger adults who have been targeted for opt-out testing. The results suggests that the "opt in" process – with its emphasis on documented and informed consent – may not be a barrier to testing at all.