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Public perception of the risk of HIV infection associated with blood donation: the role of contextual cues

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BACKGROUND: Previous surveys have reported that a high proportion of people believe that HIV can be contracted through donating blood. It was hypothesized that this may reflect an artifact of the survey methods used. This study was therefore designed to test the hypothesis that providing contextual cues specific to HIV would cause respondents to express an increased belief that the virus can be contracted by donating blood.

STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: A one-way, between-group design was used to test this hypothesis. Adult subjects (n = 168) were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions, all three groups receiving information about the small risk of infection from blood transfusion. The variation across the experimental conditions was the example of infection given (i.e., Condition 1 = no specific example of infection risk, Condition 2 = data on the small risk of contracting hepatitis C through transfusion, Condition 3 = data on the low risk of contracting HIV through transfusion). Respondents answered a single question, “Do you think you could catch HIV by giving (donating) blood in the UK?”

RESULTS: Logistic regression analysis revealed that respondents in the HIV-cued condition were almost 11 times (OR = 10.6) more likely to answer “Yes” to the survey question, as compared with the no-cue condition. There was no significant difference in response between the no-cue and the hepatitis C-cue conditions.

CONCLUSION: Providing contextual cues relating to HIV increased the expressed belief that the virus could be contracted through donating blood. To better develop donor recruitment policies, future survey tools should minimize contextual effects.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: From the Schools of Psychology and Life & Environment Sciences, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham;

Publication date: 01 June 2002

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