Almost half of EU population still has misconceptions about spread of AIDS

Almost half of the European Union population continues to have misconceptions about the ways in which HIV/AIDS can be spread, the European Commission said Monday.

A survey by the EU executive found that although many know that sharing needles, receiving infected blood and having unprotected sex were the three most prominent ways to get infected, 45 percent also believed donating blood, sharing glasses and sitting on a toilet seat could spread the disease.

Only 40 percent knew the virus could not be passed by kissing on the mouth.

"We must not lose sight of the fact that HIV/AIDS is still one of the biggest preventable killers worldwide," said Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. "I am most worried about the decreasing attention for prevention."

Particular concern centers on the 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004. "More needs to be done, in particular to inform the citizens of new EU member states, where the epidemic is still strong, and which border the countries where the epidemic is on the rise," Kyprianou said.

Those tending to have the highest knowledge of the disease were urban young people, but despite their high level of awareness, the report found them taking fewer precautions compared with four years ago, reports AP.

"We have to promote education, the use of sterile needles and syringes, and especially safer sex as complacency leads in particular the young to underestimate the potential risk," said Kyprianou.

The survey was conducted from Sept. 2 to Oct. 6 and Nov. 5 to Dec. 7 of 2005 with interviews of more than 24,000 EU residents ages 15 and up. The margin of error was between 1.9 and 3.1 percentage points.

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