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Study: Americans ambivalent about HIV/AIDS; Conservatives 'less compassionate' to victims

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Ron Brynaert
Published: Monday November 27, 2006

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A study conducted by an international Christian child development organization finds that many Americans are ambivalent about the world's HIV/AIDS crisis, with nearly two-fifths admitting to having difficulty sympathizing with victims, RAW STORY has found.

In the study commissioned by Compassion International, a ministry to poor children in developing countries, 1,004 telephone interviews with adults 18 and older were conducted by a Christian polling organization.

In a press release, Compassion noted that the results showed "conflicting behavior and attitudes" by Americans regarding the disease which has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognized in 1981, according to United Nations figures.

When asked if they "have more sympathy for people who have cancer than you do for people who have HIV or AIDS because you feel most of those with HIV/AIDS got the disease as a result of their decisions or lifestyles," thirty-nine percent of the people polled agreed strongly or somewhat.

The study shows that political ideology plays a large role in the degree of sympathy Americans hold for victims.

"Demonstrating that these issues have been co-opted by political considerations, easily the most significant gap related to sociopolitical ideology," the study says. "Political conservatives (50%) were twice as likely as liberals (23%) to say that they have less compassion for those with the 'lifestyle' disease."

"Also, Republicansí lack of sympathy outpaces that of Democrats (45% versus 34%, respectively)," the study adds.

While roughly one out of seven Americans (15 percent) said they donated in 2005 to an organization specifically to address the HIV/AIDS crisis, only 8 percent said that they have a compassionate attitude toward HIV/AIDS victims and have donated to the cause.

Fifty-two percent admitted to being unengaged with the HIV/AIDS crisis, expressing conflicting, neutral or undecided views and behaviors related to addressing the issue, according to the press release.

By nearly two-to-one, respondents said they would rather address HIV/AIDS than global warming (52 to 28 percent), but ranked access to clean water (66 to 13 percent), dealing with cancer (47 to 19 percent) and addressing poverty (47 to 22 percent) as more important.

The poll also showed that nearly half of Americans believe they can help influence the war on terror (48 percent).

A pdf file of the poll can be accessed at this link.