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Brussels, 2 October 2006

Questions and answers on the Eurobarometer on HIV/AIDS

When was the survey carried out and which method was used?

Fieldwork for the special Eurobarometer 240 on “AIDS prevention” was carried out in two stages: between September 2nd and October 6th 2005 in the 25 Member States and between November 5th and December 7th 2005 in the acceding and candidate countries and in the Northern part of Cyprus. The methodology used is that of the Standard Commission Eurobarometer polls. Around 25,000 respondents aged 15 years and over, were interviewed. The previous Eurobarometer survey on this issue was carried out in 2002.

Are European citizens better informed about ways of being infected with HIV today?

The vast majority of European citizens (around 95%) know that it is possible to contract HIV by an infected needle, by receiving infected blood, and when they have sex without protection with someone who has AIDS or who is HIV positive.

But some misunderstandings still remain:

  • Only 40% of respondents know it is not possible to be infected by HIV when you kiss on the mouth someone who has AIDS or is HIV positive. French (69%), Danish (59%) and Dutch (58%) respondents were those with the largest percentages of correct answers. A significant number of Lithuanians (44%), Cypriots (38%) and Slovakians (47%) think it is possible to catch HIV in this way.
  • A majority of interviewees are aware it is not possible to contract HIV or AIDS neither when drinking from a glass which has been used by someone who has AIDS or is HIV positive, nor when sitting on a toilet seat used by an infected person. “Giving blood” and “taking care of someone who has AIDS or is HIV positive” are recognized as not representing possible forms of infection. However, the rate of correct answers remains quite low (on average 55%). With the exception of Greece, EU15 respondents rank higher in terms of correct answers. There is often a large difference between the country which provided the highest number of right answers and the country which scored the lowest. For instance, 89% of Swedes know that it is impossible to become HIV positive by giving blood whereas 16% of Slovakians think it is.
  • A majority of Europeans knows that it is impossible to contract AIDS or HIV neither when you eat a meal prepared by some who has AIDS or is HIV positive nor handling objects touched by someone ill. Moreover, most Europeans citizens are aware that shaking hands with someone who has AIDS or is HIV positive can not infect them. For instance, 96% of Dutch, 93% of French responded correctly. 71% of Italians, 63% of Lithuanians and 62% of Slovakians gave the right answer.

Finally, it is important to highlight that the level of awareness has significantly decreased in Italy, Spain, and in the United Kingdom. In contrast, the Portuguese and Germans’ knowledge on AIDS has improved remarkably in comparison to the 2002 survey.

How has Europeans’ behaviour changed?

Most European citizens acknowledge they take more precautions in sexual intercourse to avoid a potential infection by AIDS/HIV. Although taking precautions is one of the best ways to prevent the transmission, only 34% of Lithuanians and 38% of Latvians said that they did it. More and more citizens of the EU-15 said that they do not take more precautions in sexual intercourse.

Except for the last statement, the 10 new Member States have changed their behaviour in quite a radical way since the emergence of AIDS. For instance, Maltese (42%), Cypriots (39%) and Slovakians (39%) admit “avoiding certain company” while, 2% of Dutch and 7% of Swedes and Danish did not change their acquaintances.

The same trend can be observed when people are asked if they avoid certain places or if they take more care of the things they touch. For instance, 30% of Estonians admit they avoid certain places whereas 2% of Dutch people do so.

At the same time, Hungarians (71%), Cypriots (65%) and Greeks (65%) admit they seek more stability in their choice of partners. In the contrary, 68% of Dutch citizens and 60% of Danish and French people admit that they do not try to find more stability in their choice of partners.

Do Europeans trust HIV/AIDS treatments?

68% of European citizens feel that the treatment and health care available for people infected with AIDS or HIV positive are effective in their country. However, while Belgians (83%), Dutch (83%), Italians (82%), Swedes (82%) rate their medical system as effective, only a quarter of Latvian and Estonian respondents estimate the care for infected people as being efficient in their countries.

In almost all Europeans countries except Estonia (47%), Hungary (47%) and Latvia (40%), the majority of interviewees find information campaigns on risky behaviours effective. Almost all of the EU-25 citizens support treatments aiming to delay the onset of AIDS when a person is HIV positive. Nevertheless, the intensity of this support depends on the interviewee’s nationality. For example, 84% of Dutch citizens and 83 % of Italians are favourable to this treatment and healthcare while, only 24% of Estonians and 28% of Latvians support them.

The assessment of the effectiveness of the funding of research to discover an AIDS vaccine varies from country to country. 80% of Italians and 78% of Dutch citizens find these policies efficient. On the contrary, only 19% of Latvians and 20% of Estonians assess these policies as being helpful.

Half of European citizens (54%) think that medical tests to identify an HIV positive person or person having AIDS are effective. Once again, few Estonians (34%) and Lithuanians think that action at their national level is effective. It is interesting to stress that these two countries are both very critical about their national treatment of the AIDS/HIV issue.

Do Europeans see the need for a greater role for the European Union in the fight against HIV/AIDS?

Most European citizens (on average 87%), with the exception of the United Kingdom, Denmark and Spain, are favourable to a bigger involvement of the European Union in the AIDS/HIV issue.

Europeans want the Union to play a greater role in funding research to find an AIDS vaccine and in the treatment and care for those who have HIV or AIDS. They also think that the European Union should launch information campaigns on risky behaviour.
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