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Results of a Gallup Poll on Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome-- New York City, United States, 1985

According to results of two polls done for the New York City Department of Health by the Gallup Organization in June 1985, 95% of the U.S. population has heard of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) (Table 2). The surveys were done simultaneously--one, a sample of only New York City (N.Y.C.) residents, and the other, a national sample excluding New York City. To ascertain levels of knowledge about AIDS among adolescents, the sample was enlarged to include 304 youths 13-18 years of age.

In both the N.Y.C. and U.S. polls, respondents with incomes under $10,000 were less likely to be aware of AIDS. There were no major regional differences in AIDS awareness in the national sample, although respondents in the East and West exhibited slightly higher levels of knowledge than respondents in the South and Midwest.

When asked, "Who is most likely to have AIDS?" one-half to two-thirds of all respondents mentioned homosexual men. In answer to the same question, N.Y.C. respondents were two to three times more likely to mention intravenous (IV) drug abusers than were U.S. respondents. (IV drug abusers comprise 36% of N.Y.C. AIDS patients, compared with 26% of all other AIDS patients.) When given a set of statements to be answered "true" or "false," both N.Y.C. and U.S. respondents demonstrated a high level of knowledge about AIDS (Table 3). Reported by P Clarke, MPH, DJ Sencer, MD, New York City Dept of Health; AIDS Br, Div of Viral Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases, Office of Public Affairs, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: In the absence of an available vaccine or specific therapy for the treatment of AIDS, broad-scale prevention and control activities must revolve around risk reduction and programs that positively affect behavioral changes and reduce transmission of human T-lymphotropic virus type III infection. Information on adolescent awareness of AIDS is important for designing programs to prevent the adoption of risk-taking behavior, such as high-risk sexual practices or abuse of IV drugs. The results of the two polls suggest that communication methods have been successful, not only in alerting the U.S. population to the general problem of AIDS, but also in raising awareness levels concerning certain high-risk behaviors. The increased awareness levels are encouraging, but initiatives now need to be targeted with specific strategies developed at the community level that encourage and reinforce personal decisions by high-risk individuals to avoid behaviors associated with transmission of infection.

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