GLAAD and Gilead’s First National Survey on HIV Attitudes Finds 90% of Americans Agree Stigma Exists Around HIV

July 27, 2020

Only Half of Americans Feel Knowledgeable About HIV and 6 in 10 Americans Wrongfully Believe that “It is Important to Be Careful Around People Living with HIV to Avoid Catching It”

GLAAD Launches ‘Accelerate Compassion’ and ‘Accelerate Impact’ Programs to Combat HIV Stigma with New Hires and $9 Million Multi-Year Grant from Gilead Sciences, Inc.

New York, NY, July 27, 2020 – GLAAD, the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today announced the findings of the State of HIV Stigma Study, a national survey among U.S. adults conducted by research firm Cint. The survey, funded by Gilead Sciences, Inc., measures American attitudes toward HIV/AIDS and people living with HIV.

For the full study: 

Along with the results, GLAAD released a video about the survey and HIV stigma, featuring celebrities like Peppermint, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Michelle Visage, Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, Perry Mason), Jonathan Fernandez (Love & Hip Hop), Daniel Franzese (Mean Girls, Looking), singer Parson James, Selenis Leyva (Orange is the New Black), and singer Asiahn. Video available here:

To help combat stigma, GLAAD also announced its ‘Accelerate Compassion’ and ‘Accelerate Impact’ programs which include media trainings for hundreds of HIV and LGBTQ advocates in the U.S. South, regional media work to improve the quantity and quality of HIV and LGBTQ coverage across local media outlets in the region, as well as recent staff hires and leadership to support both the regional and national work. The programs are funded through a $9 million multi-year grant from Gilead Sciences as part of Gilead’s COMPASS Initiative.

The inaugural State of HIV Stigma Study found that only half of American adults feel knowledgeable about HIV and that high levels of perceived stigma around HIV still exist. About 90% of American adults agreed “there is stigma around HIV,” “people are quick to judge those with HIV,” and that “people make assumptions when someone is tested for HIV.”

At a time when people living with HIV lead long and healthy lives, and cannot transmit the virus when on proper medications, only 60% of respondents believed HIV can be treated and nearly 60% wrongfully believe it is “important to be careful around people living with HIV to avoid catching it.” The survey also found that only slightly more than half of American adults had seen stories about people living with HIV in the media.

“People living with HIV today are leading long, healthy lives and cannot transmit HIV when they receive proper treatment, but the stigma that they face has persisted for far too long and leads to harmful discrimination,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “HIV issues have flown under the radar, but with advances in treatment and prevention, we urgently need to educate the public on the facts about HIV today. GLAAD’s new programs will ensure that local HIV advocates are front and center throughout national and local media in an effort to educate the public and uplift stories about people living with HIV.” 

“Gilead is committed to going where the need is greatest to end the HIV epidemic, and there is no better partner to help us do that than GLAAD,” said Amy Flood, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Gilead Sciences. “This new survey gives us valuable insight into the role stigma plays as a barrier to care. The solution will require collaboration between the entire community fighting this epidemic, from scientists to doctors and community leaders – and Gilead is proud to be a part of this effort.”  

Results of GLAAD and Gilead’s State of HIV Stigma Study

How Informed are Americans About HIV?

  • 51% of non-LGBTQ Americans v. 55% of LGBTQ Americans “feel knowledgeable about HIV.”
  • Only 60% of Americans agreed that “HIV is a medical condition that can be treated.” According to the CDC, a person living with HIV who takes HIV medicine as prescribed and stays virally suppressed can stay healthy and has effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to HIV-negative partners.
  • 40% of non-LGBTQ Americans v. 34% of LGBTQ Americans only “know a little about HIV.” About 10% were “unaware” or “do not know much” about HIV (9% of non-LGBTQ, 11% of LGBTQ).

High Stigma Towards Those Living with HIV Remains:

  • Nearly 6 in 10 Americans (59% non-LGBTQ, 57% LGBTQ) wrongfully agreed that “it is important to be careful around people living with HIV to avoid catching it.”
  • 89% of Americans believe “there is still stigma around HIV.”
  • 88% of Americans agree that “people are quick to judge those living with HIV.”
  • Despite the fact that a person living with HIV who takes HIV medicine as prescribed has effectively no risk of transmitting HIV, only 35% of Americans believe that those living with HIV “shouldn’t have to tell others.”

Visibility of People Living with HIV:

  • 54% of Americans report having seen stories about people living with HIV.
    • A higher percentage of LGBTQ people (61%) than non-LGBTQ people (52%) report having seen any stories about people living with HIV in the media.

Support for Education, Optimism High:

  • Over 90% of Americans agree with statements including “information should be readily available,” “promoting prevention should be a high priority,” and “schools should provide prevention information.”
  • 90% of Americans agree that “people living with HIV can live productive/happy lives” and that “great strides have been made in treatment.”

How Comfortable are Americans with People Living with HIV?

Survey respondents were also presented with eight situations to evaluate levels of comfort with and acceptance towards people living with HIV, similar to GLAAD’s annual Accelerating Acceptance survey of how comfortable Americans are around LGBTQ people. Respondents were asked their comfort levels surrounding people living with HIV, which included the following scenarios: a coworker, a neighbor, a teacher, a family member living, a partner/spouse, a person at [their] place of worship, a barber or hairstylist, and a doctor, dentist, or medical professional.

By analyzing responses to these situations, the State of HIV Stigma Study provides insight into the comfortability that both non-LGBTQ Americans and LGBTQ Americans have with those living with HIV.

  • Americans were least comfortable (54% total Americans, 56% Non-LGBTQ, 45% LGBTQ somewhat/strongly uncomfortable) with a doctor, dentist, or medical professional living with HIV.
  • 49% of Americans (51% non-LGBTQ, 40% LGBTQ) were somewhat/strongly uncomfortable with a partner or spouse living with HIV.
  • 45% of Americans (47% non-LGBTQ, 39% LGBTQ) were somewhat/strongly uncomfortable with a barber or hairstylist living with HIV.
  • Of the 8 scenarios, LGBTQ people were more comfortable with people living with HIV than non-LGBTQ people in every scenario.

Gilead Sciences’ $9 Million Multi-Year Grant to GLAAD

GLAAD also announced its ‘Accelerate Compassion’ and ‘Accelerate Impact’ programs with a $9 million multi-year grant from Gilead Sciences to combat HIV stigma in the U.S. South as part of Gilead’s COMPASS Initiative. 

The multi-year effort is comprised of two newly developed programs within the GLAAD Media Institute, GLAAD’s research, training, and consultation arm:

‘Accelerate Compassion’ is a GLAAD Media Institute (GMI) program dedicated to filling gaps in the HIV care continuum by stimulating awareness, challenging stigma, and creating a first-ever scalable curriculum to stop stigma before it starts, particularly in communities of color in the Southern U.S.

The program involves conducting dozens of trainings across the Southern U.S. that help advocates tell their stories through social and traditional media in an effort to more holistically address stigma, wherever it exists. To date, over 150 individuals and organizations have worked with the GLAAD Media Institute through the program. Later this year, the program will launch a “Southern Training Series” which will provide 20 additional trainings to the region to train up to 600 additional advocates. Additionally, the program will be activating new celebrity and notable voices to speak out about HIV and LGBTQ acceptance. The GLAAD Media Institute is also actively working in Hollywood to tell new and diverse scripted storylines related to HIV. 

Leading the initiative is DaShawn Usher, an award-winning advocate, published researcher, and celebrated leader within the LGBTQ+ community and HIV prevention field. Usher joins GLAAD as the Program Officer, Communities of Color with more than 12 years of extensive experience in LGBTQ research, program development and design, campaigns, and health communications. Gwendolyn Pointer, an activist, advocate, 30-year corporate executive veteran, and newly hired Executive Vice President of the GLAAD Media Institute is responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations at the institute, facilitating partnerships, and aligning the Institute’s strategic initiatives.

‘Accelerate Impact’ will focus on engaging with local media outlets across the South to grow coverage of local LGBTQ issues and equip newsrooms to better cover HIV and LGBTQ issues. The second phase of the program includes growing the quantity and quality of LGBTQ media coverage in the Southern U.S., with a focus on having local media cover stories of LGBTQ people of color and HIV prevention and treatment. The GLAAD Media Institute will begin reports which rate state newspapers and local broadcast news outlets on their LGBTQ coverage. Similar to GLAAD’s work with national media outlets, the GLAAD Media Institute will also hold discussions with local newsrooms on best practices for covering stories involving HIV, as well as the local LGBTQ community.

GLAAD recently hired Barbara Simon as Head of News and Campaigns to launch the program. Simon was most recently at CBS News as a producer at CBS This Morning, and executive producer of CBS News on Logo. A two-time Emmy Award winner, her broadcast news career began at the market-dominating CBS affiliate in Oklahoma City, KWTV.


The State of HIV Stigma Study was conducted online between November and December 2019, among a national sample of 2,506 U.S. adults, age 18 or over using sample sourced by Cint, the world's largest sample exchange, with over 100 million registered consumers across over 150 countries.

About Gilead:

Gilead Sciences, Inc. is a research-based biopharmaceutical company that discovers, develops, and commercializes innovative medicines in areas of unmet medical need. Gilead is dedicated to transforming and simplifying care for people with life-threatening illnesses around the world. 

We also recognize that it takes more than medicine to address challenges patients and communities face in accessing the best possible care, and we know that passion for scientific discovery alone — and that Gilead alone — cannot solve these challenges. Gilead applies the same values of partnership, integrity, and dedication to our work tackling the social and structural challenges that patients, healthcare providers, and other partners must overcome to identify and elevate the best possible solutions.