Almost half of people are misinformed about the way HIV is contracted, the National Aids Trust warned yesterday.
A survey of 12,000 people by the charity found that 46 per cent wrongly thought HIV could be caught from being bitten, spat at or coming into contact with a discarded needle.
The data has been released to mark STiQ Day, which encourages people to think about their sexual health.
Trust chief executive Deborah Jack said: "We often read stories in the media about people having to take HIV tests after being spat at, bit or stepping on a needle in a park. However the risk from these activities is either non-existent or incredibly low.
"Misinformation about how you can contract HIV leads to anxiety and feeds stigma and discrimination towards people living with the disease. It's an immense distraction from the overwhelming risk factor for HIV - unsafe sex."