Cypriots still have a lot to learn about AIDS despite the fact that basic ways of protection have been integrated into society, say researchers..
Results from an island-wide survey aiming to help design prevention and awareness programmes about AIDS indicate that there is a lack of basic knowledge regarding ways the virus is transmitted.
This is according to vice-Rector of the University of Cyprus and executive director of the Social Research Centre RUBSI Constantinos Fellas, who led the study.
During Friday's presentation of preliminary results involving 400 of the 900 questionnaires completed across the island, in response to the question 'how is the virus transmitted' 91.8% said sharing needles, 88.5% infected blood transfusion, 68.4% from a pregnant mother to the foetus, 28.3% mosquito bites and 19.7% from toilets.
A small number of respondents (3.4%) believe that the virus can be transmitted by eating or spending time with a person who has AIDS, while 4.6% from kitchen utensils.
Some 58.2% said that there is a risk of infection from an open wound on genitals, while only 4.18% responded negatively and 37.6% did not know.
An overwhelming majority of 92.5% said that the correct use of condoms can reduce or restrict the risk of infection, while 93.8% believe that this can be achieved by avoiding sharing needles. And 79.8% of participants said that the risk is reduced by limiting the number of sexual partners.
According to Fellas, these findings show that basic ways of protection from AIDS have been integrated into Cypriot society.
The majority of participants responded negatively to the question whether men are responsible for the decision to use a condom with 38.2% 'strongly disagreeing' and 24.5% 'disagreeing', while 20.3% said they 'strongly agree' and 13.2% 'agreed'.
Meanwhile, 30.2% 'disagree' and 62.6% 'strongly disagree' that AIDS is a disease that only concerns homosexuals, while 22.4% 'disagree' and 66.9% 'strongly disagree' that people with AIDS 'got what they deserved'.
At the same time, 26.6% 'disagree' and 63.6% 'strongly disagree' that people with AIDS should be isolated from society, while only 11.8% and 6.3% 'disagree' and 'strongly disagree' respectively that they could be friends with a person who has AIDS.
The above results show that overall Cypriots are compassionate towards people who suffer from the disease.
With regard to the issue of sexual activity in teenagers, the survey revealed that 5% of 14-year-olds start having sexual relationships, while 7% and 21% have complete sexual intercourse by the age of 15 and 17 respectively.
Other findings revealed that 10.3% of respondents have had sexual intercourse with a same-sex individual, while 36.2% of the 400 respondents said that they had dangerous sexual intercourse such as casual sex without the use of a condom due to the consumption of alcohol.
In addition, 3.4% of the sample responded positively to the question 'have you ever been forced to have sex against your will', of which half were 14 years old and the other half 20 at the time of the incident.