One-Third Of Adults Admit Little Or No Knowledge Of HIV Pandemic

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More than 25 years after HIV was discovered, one-third of the people in seven wealthy nations admit they know little or nothing about the global HIV and AIDS epidemic, and one-fourth believe the problem is "greatly exaggerated," according to a survey released today by World Vision, the international humanitarian organization.

Ironically, 80 percent of the respondents believe their governments should do much more to help children orphaned by AIDS and AIDS-related illnesses around the world, but only 44 percent are willing to pay more in taxes to help fund prevention, treatment, research and care.

"This survey reconfirms what all of us on the front lines of the AIDS battle know -- leaders must put a face on the pandemic because, for people to take action, AIDS must affect them in a personal way," says Richard E. Stearns, president of World Vision, U.S. "While some of these survey results present daunting challenges, we can be encouraged with the finding that the more people know about AIDS, the more compassionate they are toward those directly affected by it."

In addition, the survey, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, the global polling and market research firm, reveals that 90 percent of the respondents believe there is a "moral obligation" to try to prevent people from being infected with the AIDS virus.

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"The fact that nine out of 10 across all seven nations agree on this issue of a moral obligation is extraordinary," says Sam McGuire, senior vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs. "These are extremely high levels and it shows that we must continue striving to find a solution."

The seven nations surveyed were: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, all members of the G-8. Russia, the eighth member, was not surveyed because of financial considerations.

Stearns noted that the World Vision "Index of Concern" finds Canada leading the seven nations for the highest level of empathy its residents feel toward those affected by the AIDS crisis. Following Canada, in order, are: France, Germany, USA, Italy, UK and Japan. The World Vision "Index of Concern" is a proprietary index that combines into one measure six facets of concern about HIV and AIDS globally.

At a United Nations press conference today, two days before World AIDS Day (December 1), Stearns urged all world leaders -- not those of only the seven nations surveyed -- to take note: Seventy percent of those surveyed believe their governments should place a "high priority" on education programs for children.

"AIDS is the greatest humanitarian disaster of our time, maybe of all time, and children represent our greatest hope in turning the tide against this deadly disease," Stearns says. "Orphans and vulnerable children are the 'echo boom' of the pandemic, and much more must be done to protect them from exploitation and provide opportunities for the future. To the leaders of the seven governments whose citizens were surveyed, to the leaders of the UN and World Bank, to my NGO colleagues, when history judges us, we all will be asked, 'What did you do to help them and stop the calamity of AIDS?'"

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