Skip to main content

Home News News World

Third of gay and bisexual men believe HIV can be transmitted by sharing a toothbrush

By Will Stroude

New research from HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust has revealed that a worryingly high number of gay and bi men hold “medically inaccurate” and outdated views on the virus and how it is transmitted.

A survey conducted by YouGov asked 2,000 adults, including 118 gay and bi men, questions about HIV and found that 30 per cent of gay and bisexual men believe you can contract the virus by sharing a toothbrush with an HIV-positive person.

Equally as shocking was the finding that one in every 10 of them still think HIV can be transmitted through kissing.

The news comes as HIV rates continue to rise among gay and bi men and trans women. Despite medical advances meaning that the chance of the virus being passed on from someone who is HIV+ but with an undetectable viral load, has been proven to be “effectively zero”, one in every six HIV+ people are unaware of their status and not on treatment, allowing the virus to spread.

In light of the findings, THT has warned that “public perceptions are still mirroring those seen in the 1980s.”

Ian Green, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We’ve come a long way since the AIDS crisis first emerged, when the nation was gripped by panic and fear.

“Thankfully, we now know far more about how HIV is and is not transmitted, and medical advances mean HIV doesn’t have to stand in the way of living a long and healthy life.

“But it’s not over – while science has moved on, we can see today that myths from the 1980s are still deeply entrenched in society, both in terms of how HIV is transmitted and what it’s like to live with HIV.”

Green continued: “Misunderstanding of the virus can fuel stigma and cause immense distress for people coming to terms with an HIV diagnosis. Much more needs to be done to bring the British public up to date with what HIV means in 2016.”

The research also found that many people are unaware of the effectiveness of treatment. Only 29 per cent of gay and bi men surveyed knew that HIV+ undetectable people could have children without passing on the virus, and almost 40 per cent didn’t realise people with HIV can live into old age with the right treatment.

Just 45 per cent of those surveyed knew that HIV+ people can have sex without transmitting HIV when on effective treatment.

HIV charities have increased their efforts to reduce stigma, recognising that taking the fear out of HIV will encourage people to know their status and help stop the spread of the virus. Sexual health charity GMFA have released a series of videos showing what life is like with HIV.

The group’s interim chief executive, Ian Howley, noted that fear of HIV “can be dangerous and lead to late diagnosis (meaning less effective treatment and more chance of passing on HIV).”

To order a free self-sampling HIV kit go to, and to find your nearest sexual health clinic visit

For more information about World AIDS Day visit

More stories:
Northern Ireland politician ‘didn’t know that heterosexual people could contract HIV’
Vile online trolls impersonate 13-year-old who took his own life after years of homophobic bullying