Every year on December 1st, many people and organizations come together to observe World AIDS Day and reflect on the significant progress achieved thus far.
What Are Some Common Myths?
Many organizations and communities have come together to speak awareness and dismantle the stigmas surrounding HIV. Unfortunately, there are still lots of myths and misconceptions around HIV. We will further discuss these myths below.
Myth: I can get HIV by being around HIV-positive people.
HIV can only be transmitted through the following body fluids:
- Semen (including pre-cum)
- Vaginal fluid
- Anal mucous
Other ways that HIV can enter the bloodstream include:
- Unprotected sex (including sex toys)
- Passed from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding
- Injecting drugs with a needle that has infected blood
- Infected blood donations or organ transplants
Besides that, HIV cannot be transmitted by:
- Breathing the same air
- Touching the toilet seat or door handle
- Drinking water from a water fountain
- Hugging, kissing, or shaking hands
- Sharing food, drink, or cooking utensils
- Using the same exercise equipment
- Coming in contact with sweat, tears, urine, or feces of someone with HIV
- Coughing, sneezing, or spit
- New or sterilized needles
- Musical instruments
- Among many other instances
Myth: Mosquitos spread HIV.
As mentioned above, insects cannot pass down HIV. Several studies show that this cannot occur. It is due to the fact that when a bug bites, they don’t inject the blood of the person or animal they previously bit. Even then, HIV can only live for a short amount of time inside of them.
Myth: HIV only targets specific groups of people.
HIV does not discriminate against who it will infect. The infection can be passed down to anyone through the number of ways discussed above. Some people may be more at risk of contracting HIV if they engage in any risk factor behaviors mentioned previously. Others are more at risk of contracting HIV (or developing AIDS) due to unequal social, economic, and environmental factors. However, HIV does not choose to infect specific groups and not others.
Myth: It’s obvious if someone has HIV.
It is important to keep in mind that HIV symptoms can differ from person to person. Some people may experience symptoms- others may not have any symptoms whatsoever. Given the effectiveness of treatments today, people with HIV can live healthy lives just like everyone else.
Myth: I’m in a heterosexual relationship and don’t use IV drugs. I won’t get HIV.
As mentioned before, anyone can contract HIV through the number of ways listed above. HIV does not pick and choose who it will infect. Even if someone is in a heterosexual relationship, they can still contract the disease by engaging in unprotected sex with someone who has the virus. It can even occur through an unfortunate accident (such as an accident getting poked by an infected needle).
Myth: With treatment, one can’t spread the virus.
HIV treatments may lower an individual’s viral load to a point where it does not show up in blood tests. This event is known as undetectable viral load. However, if you miss a dose or stop your medication, you can still pass the virus onto others.
Myth: Someone with HIV can never have kids.
People with HIV can have kids, but they risk passing it down to their children during pregnancy. However, it is not impossible. There are many precautions, treatments, and methods people can seek if they wish to have children.
Myth: HIV will always lead to AIDS.
During the early years when HIV and AIDS were still new, the death rate from AIDS was extremely high. However, with today’s innovation in research, treatments, and prevention- people with HIV and AIDS can live long and productive lives. Most people on medication (if started early) don’t even reach stage three.
Myth: Birth control protects against HIV.
The only forms of contraception that best protect people from contracting STIs/STDs are those that create a barrier to block fluids from entering the other’s body. These include male condoms, female condoms, or dental dams. It also means that most forms of contraception (including birth control) will not protect against HIV.
We have come a long way since the early years of HIV/AIDS. Back then, the development of treatments and their access to them was complicated due to the stigma surrounding the virus.
Since then, there have been lots of scientific discoveries and innovations that have led to better treatments and prevention methods. However, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still a significant global issue. Therefore, this World AIDS Day, we would like to encourage everyone to seek more information on this issue (and possibly find different ways to get involved). We need to continue strengthening our relationships with various groups to end this global epidemic once and for all.