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Ahchoo! It’s idiocy syndrome

Dhanbad, Nov. 30: Ignorance is not always bliss.

A survey conducted in the coal capital on the eve of World AIDS Day bared serious misconceptions and prejudices, with close to 37 per cent of the respondents firmly believing that sneezing could spread the disease.

Volunteers of local NGO Dhanbad Action Ground handed out a set of 10 questions to 100 truck drivers, cleaners and local youths — in the age group of 20-52 years — who were randomly selected on NH-2.

Cardiologist N.K. Singh, who led the survey, said that at least 60 per cent of the people were not willing to live with or share their household items with AIDS victims, fearing infection.

Underlining the need for special impetus on AIDS awareness, the doctor said: “We have been conducting similar surveys for the past three years. The questionnaire is designed to gauge the status of awareness about the disease among a target group of people. It is sad that right information is still to reach the masses.”

According to Singh, at least 14 per cent of the respondents admitted to not using protection while having sex, while only 50 per cent of them are aware that early treatment of AIDS can prolong one’s life expectancy by 10-20 years. “More surprisingly, 90 per cent of those who took the survey had no clue that AIDS can be treated now,” he added.

The daylong survey, however, did throw up some positive results.

Compared to last year, when over 10 per cent of respondents did not know about the disease, this time only 4 per cent were found to be ignorant. Also, around 80 per cent were aware that using condoms during sex could prevent spread of the disease.

“What is heartening is that close to 95 per cent respondents believed that awareness campaigns can help clear misconceptions about the disease. We will organise a human chain in Dhanbad on Sunday as part of our sustained programme to stop the HIV scourge,” Singh said.