Press Releases

    24 June 2002

    AIDS Awareness High, But Behaviour Remains Risky, According to New Study by UN Population Division

    NEW YORK, 21 June (DESA) -- Defeating the AIDS epidemic will require dramatic changes in sexual and reproductive behaviour. This is the overarching conclusion of HIV/AIDS: Awareness and Behaviour, a new study to be released at 00:01 GMT on 23 June 2002 by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the special session of the United Nations General Assembly on HIV/AIDS.

    The study, available in English and French, examines HIV/AIDS-related awareness and behaviour in 39 developing countries, 24 from Africa, seven from Asia, and eight from Latin America and the Caribbean. Among the major findings are:

    -- HIV/AIDS campaigns have raised awareness in many developing countries, especially in urban areas, but, as yet, do not appear to influence individual risk perception and behaviour;

    -- Even in countries where HIV prevalence is high, most people feel that their risk of contracting AIDS is low;

    -- Women are generally less knowledgeable than men about HIV/AIDS, and this gender gap is likely to be related to the status of women and the sensitivity of sexual matters in many cultures;

    -- The single most important source of information about HIV/AIDS is the radio, with radio messages make a significant contribution to awareness and knowledge of the disease;

    -- Among young people, schools have had limited impact on raising awareness and conveying a basic knowledge of HIV/AIDS;

    -- While considerable efforts have been devoted to promoting the use of condoms as part of HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns, condom use among couples remains low in affected countries; and

    -- Enormous challenges lie ahead in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, especially in the rural areas of the developing countries.

    The Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS adopted at the special session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS acknowledged that prevention of HIV infection must be the mainstay of responses to the epidemic. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations affirmed in his statement on 20 July 2001 to the Conference of G-8 heads of State in Genoa, Italy, the first priority is "to ensure that people everywhere -- particularly the young -- know what to do to avoid infection".

    In addition to its printed forms, the publication can be accessed, in both English and French, from the United Nations Population Division Web site, Executive summaries in the six official United Nations languages -- Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish -- are also available in printed copy and on the Web site. Further information may be obtained from the office of Joseph Chamie, Director, Population Division, United Nations, New York, N.Y. 10017, USA; tel. 1-212-963-3179; fax 1-212-963-2147.

    HIV/AIDS: Awareness and Behaviour is available for $5 (Sales No. E.02.XIII.8, ISBN 92-1-151366-9) from United Nations Publications, Two UN Plaza, Room DC2-853, Dept. PRES, New York, NY 10017, USA; tel. 800-253-9646 or 212-963-8302, fax. 212-963-3489, e-mail:; or Section des Ventes et Commercialisation, Bureau E-4, CH-1211, Geneva 10, Switzerland, tel. 41-22-917-2614, fax. 41-22-917-0027, e-mail:; Internet:

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