Utahns overwhelmingly support AIDS education for children in the public schools, and most are not concerned about their children attending school with a classmate who has the disease.
These are the findings of a recent survey commissioned by the Bureau of Epidemiology at the Utah Department of Health. The survey, conducted by the University of Utah Survey Research Center, was conducted to determine the attitudes and behaviors of adult Utahns regarding acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).The survey, conducted by telephone interviews with 525 adults (18 years or older) randomly selected from throughout the state, was funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta. The sample error is plus or minus 4.3 percent.
Its results were hailed by health department executives.
"The Utah Department of Health is encouraged by the consistent improvement in the knowledge level of adults in Utah regarding AIDS," said Craig R. Nichols, state epidemiologist. "Surveys over the past years have demonstrated that Utahns are taking advantage of opportunities to learn more about the outbreak, modes of transmission and methods of prevention."
What the survey revealed is that 95.5 percent of the people questioned expressed overwhelming support for AIDS education for children in the public schools. More than 90 percent of the sample agreed with the statement, "AIDS education in the schools should include instruction on abstinence as well as the use of condoms."
About two-thirds of the sample agreed that educational pamphlets for people who are likely to get AIDS should contain explicit sexual information. A similar portion of the people interviewed - 71 percent - felt that public money should be spent on education for those at greatest risk of the AIDS virus.
Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said positive AIDS virus tests should be reported by law to the state Department of Health. While AIDS as a disease has been reportable in Utah since 1982, reporting of HIV infections without symptoms of the disease has not been implemented by the health department, despite strong public support for such action. The HIV virus is believed to be a precursor to AIDS.
"The department's AIDS Advisory Committee and other groups in the state remain opposed to mandatory reporting," Nichols said. "The department continues to review the need for reporting, with the expectation that mandatory reporting of positive HIV tests will come when required for protection of the public health."
Testing for the AIDS virus for those about to marry or for mothers who give up their children for adoption also received endorsement from the full sample - 75 percent and 82 percent, respectively. These actions are not consistent with current public health practice.
"Experience in states that have adopted premarital testing confirms that implementation of the law is expensive, causes applicants to seek marriage in other states, and rarely identifies infected individuals," Nichols said. "Some of those states are now developing legislation to eliminate premarital testing."
Utahns were split about mandatory testing for the AIDS virus - 47.5 percent said testing should be voluntary while 45 percent disagreed.
Those surveyed were also asked questions regarding the care of AIDS patients.
More than 60 percent said that AZT, a drug that can extend life for some AIDS sufferers, should be made available regardless of the individual's ability to pay. The drug costs about $9,000 per year per person.
However, a fourth of the respondents felt that all AIDS patients should be separated from the rest of the population. Those most in agreement with isolation of AIDS patients were respondents over age 50 with less than a high-school education.
Parents of children between the ages of 6 and 18 were asked how concerned they are about their children attending school with a classmate who has AIDS. About a third expressed some concern. Parents who were most concerned were non-Wasatch Front residents, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and people who had lower levels of education, the survey said.
About half of the parents - 46.4 percent - reported they had talked to their children about sexual and drug behavior in terms of AIDS. Men, non-Mormons and those with some college education were most likely to have talked to their children about these risk factors, the survey said.