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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 10:44 GMT
Young women 'complacent over HIV'
Condom use is key in preventing the spread of HIV
Seven out of 10 young women do not believe they are at any risk of being infected with HIV, a survey has found.

The poll, commissioned by The Body Shop and MTV, also found 92% do not think a condom is an essential handbag item on a night out.

Two-thirds of the 1,064 women aged 16 to 30 surveyed thought it would spoil their chances of having sex.

But campaigners warn that complacency about HIV is hindering efforts to curb the spread of disease.

Under-investment in HIV awareness and lack of comprehensive sex and relationships education in schools has led to decreased knowledge of the risks of HIV transmission
Yusef Azad, National AIDS Trust

Worldwide figures show that more than half of the 4.3 million people newly diagnosed with HIV last year were under the age of 24.

The Health Protection Agency estimates around 63,500 UK adults were living with HIV in 2005 - with as many as a third unaware of their infection.

The survey also found:

  • More than one in 10 (14%) said it was a man's responsibility to carry the condom

  • One in 10 said they thought a woman who carries a condom is "easy" and sleeps around

  • Nearly half (47%) said they ignored the subject of condoms when talking to their friends about their sex life

  • Just 32% make it a priority to ask new partners about their sexual history

  • Seven out of 10 said they would feel embarrassed if a condom fell out of their handbag in the ladies' toilet

Chris Davis, global campaigns manager for The Body Shop, said: "It's worrying that so many young women don't think they are at risk from HIV and think it is somebody else's problem - such as those in developing countries, homosexuals or drug users.

"In fact, figures show that HIV infections are spreading fast among girls and women in major cities of the developed world too."

The survey forms part of the global Spray to Change Attitudes campaign, launched to raise funds for the Staying Alive Foundation, which aims to prevent the spread of HIV among young people.

More responsibility

Yusef Azad, director of policy and campaigns at the National AIDS Trust, said: "Unfortunately in this country, under-investment in HIV awareness and lack of comprehensive sex and relationships education in schools has led to decreased knowledge of the risks of HIV transmission.

"Women in the UK are not at highest risk, but any act of unprotected sex can pass on HIV, and it is important people know how to protect themselves."

Lisa Power, of the HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust warned against complacency.

She said: "If young women - and men - continue to be complacent about their sexual health we are going to see a far greater epidemic in HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in the UK.

"It is vital that sexually active women carry condoms and take responsibility for protecting themselves, especially as they are at greater risk of getting HIV than men through heterosexual sex."

How must the UK tackle HIV?
24 Nov 06 |  Health
27 Feb 06 |  Medical notes

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