Workers fear idea of AIDs-infected colleague Survey finds pervasive distrust.

February 10, 1992|By Michael L. Millenson | Michael L. Millenson,Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO -- In a reflection of the fear and emotion associated with the AIDS epidemic, many Americans remain afraid to work with someone infected with the AIDS virus even while acknowledging that the workplace poses virtually no risk of transmission.

AIDS education efforts help somewhat, concluded a survey of workers that appears in the February issue of the American Journal of Public Health. For instance, employees who knew that the AIDS-causing HIV virus is not transmitted through casual contact were less likely to hold negative views about co-workers with AIDS.

Still, the survey authors acknowledged that fears often persist "even when people recognize their own low risk of becoming infected."

"People who are knowledgeable tend to have better attitudes, but it's awfully difficult to override the fears," said Judith Barr, associate director of programs for the New York Business Group on Health and the lead author of the survey report.

However, B.J. Stiles, president of the Washington-based National Leadership Coalition on AIDS, was more optimistic. "When you survey, I think you're getting people's response mostly to a hypothetical situation," said Mr. Stiles, whose group includes corporations, labor unions and AIDS activist organizations.

The worker survey included responses from 2,836 corporate employees and 624 public-service-sector workers in New York state, the mid-Atlantic and the Midwest who were sent a questionnaire in late 1988.

The survey found that workplace education efforts on AIDS were highly credible.

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