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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 11:20 GMT
Global criticism for lack of Aids action
By Liz Blunt
BBC African analyst

Twenty years after Aids began its sweep across the continents, citizens around the world still do not believe their governments are doing enough to fight the disease.

The BBC commissioned a survey in 15 countries, testing people's views on Aids and HIV.

SURVEY: VIEWS ON AIDS

Full survey report
(PDF file 173KB)

Only in Bangladesh was the government given a convincing vote of confidence.

In the country worst hit by the disease, South Africa, only 28% of people questioned thought their government was trying hard enough.

The survey confirmed Aids as a significant concern for many people - more worrying than money, crime, terrorism or other health issues in three of the countries surveyed - Tanzania, Nigeria and India.

Elsewhere people had more pressing priorities, such as their own financial security.

The level of concern depended very much on where people lived - being lowest in the UK and US.

Three of the five countries where HIV and Aids were of least concern are nations identified by UNAids as being most at risk of rapidly rising infection rates - Ukraine, Russia and China.

Even in South Africa, where one in five adults is already infected, Aids took second place, well behind fear of crime and general lawlessness.

Misconceptions

Except in China, nearly everyone questioned knew what Aids was and how it was contracted - from unprotected sex, dirty needles or passed on from an infected mother to her baby.

Condom advert, China

But quite a lot of people also thought - quite wrongly - that you could contract the disease from other forms of personal contact.

Again China was the worst-informed country of those surveyed, with a third of those asked thinking you could catch the virus by using the same lavatory as an infected person.

Nearly as many said that sharing items like cups or towels could also spread the infection.

Condom concerns

Not everyone knew that Aids was fatal. Over half those questioned in Brazil and Nigeria said they did not think it was life-threatening.

Across all the countries surveyed, more than 70% of those asked believed that young people under the age of 14 should be taught that condoms can protect them against Aids.

This included a number of predominantly Catholic countries, such as Mexico and Brazil, where well over 90% supported this kind of sex education, despite the Catholic church's dislike of condoms.

But there is still unease in certain countries; a clear majority in both Nigeria and Indonesia were against this kind of teaching.

Put your questions to our panel of experts in a special two-hour edition of TALKING POINT at 1300 GMT, with head of UNAids Peter Piot, head of Unicef Carol Bellamy and actress and Aids campaigner Gillian Anderson.



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WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Clare Lyons
"In China, there is widespread ignorance about Aids"



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