HIV and AIDS

HIV and AIDS - Myths and Facts

Written by Dr. K Sneha and medically reviewed by Rakesh Kumar Bahunuthula

 
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There are a lot of misconceptions and myths about the transmission of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the survival rate, and the treatment. In this article, I have provided facts and truth about the most common myths that surround HIV infection. The right information is the key to understanding and preventing HIV and AIDS, and can help you lead a better life. Through years of research on HIV infection, researchers have come to the following conclusions.

Myths About Transmission:

1) I Can Get HIV from Hugging or Touching or Shaking Hands with an HIV-Patient.

Fact: This is not true. HIV does not spread through skin contact. It only gets transmitted if you come in contact with blood, breast milk, vaginal fluid, and semen of a person who is already infected. And for you to get infected, these body fluids need to come in contact with your mucous membrane, like vagina, rectum, penis, or mouth, and the risk increases if there is a tear in your skin.

2) HIV Can Spread Through Mosquito Bites.

Fact: As the HIV virus is spread through blood, it is believed that HIV can be transmitted by mosquitoes and other bloodsucking insects. But this is not true, as mosquitoes do not inject the blood of the person they bit before you, and the virus cannot survive for a long time inside them.

3) HIV Cannot Spread Through Oral Sex.

Fact: though the chances of the virus spreading through oral sex are extremely low, and HIV gets transmitted in 0 to 4 in 10,000 oral sex acts. So, always use a condom during oral sex with an HIV-positive male or female.

4) Heterosexual (Straight) People Cannot Get Infected with HIV.

Fact: The risk of transmission is higher in homosexual people, but you can still get infected if you are heterosexual. If you have unprotected sex with an HIV-infected male or female, you can get infected. The infection can also spread by sharing needles or other injectable equipment that is contaminated with HIV.

5) It Is Safe to Have Unprotected Sex with People Who Do Not Look Sick.

Fact: As the virus slowly affects the immune system, and different people start having symptoms early on and some do not show any symptom for years. They will not even know that they are infected. So, having unprotected sex with an individual who’s HIV status you do not know, even though they do not look sick, is risky.

6) It Is Inevitable to Prevent Mother-To-Child Transmission.

Fact: Spread of HIV from an HIV-infected mother to her child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission. If the mother takes antiretroviral medication as prescribed by her doctor and follows all precautions, the risk goes down significantly. With all the advancement in antiretroviral medicines, the chances of HIV transmission to the baby is less than 1 in 100 births.

7) It Is Safe for an HIV-Positive Couple to Have Unprotected Sex.

Fact: There are a lot of strains of HIV, and it is not necessary that you and your partner are infected with the same strain. Unprotected sex can infect you with the other strain also, which results in superinfection or reinfection. The new strain of HIV might be resistant to antiretroviral medicines, making your health to deteriorate.

8) HIV Can Be Transmitted by Infected Food and Water.

Fact: HIV cannot be transmitted with food and water that has been contaminated with blood or if an HIV-positive person cooks it. HIV cannot survive in water, hot temperature of the food, and the acidic environment of the stomach.

9) Circumcision Prevents the Spread of HIV.

Fact: It is true that circumcision reduces the risk of infection by up to 60 %, but it does nothing to prevent it.

10)Birth Control Pills Prevent HIV Infection.

Fact: Birth control pills only prevent a woman from getting pregnant after unprotected sex, but if your partner is HIV-positive, you can still get infected even if you are on the pill.

Myths About HIV:

1) HIV Does Not Cause Aids and HIV Was Invented in a Laboratory.

Fact: Not true at all. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, where the person is infected with one or more opportunistic infection. HIV was not invented in a lab but is believed to be transmitted from infected chimpanzees to men in the early 1950s during hunting.

2) A Person Diagnosed with HIV Infection Is Doomed.

Fact: This used to be the case in the early 80s and 90s, as the disease was not well understood then. With numerous researches and advancement in HIV treatment, an individual can live an almost normal life.

3) There Is a Cure for HIV and AIDS.

Fact: Not true. Antiretroviral cannot cure HIV infection, but it just keeps the viral load under control. There are a number of researches going on to find a cure, but as of now, there is no approved cure.

Myths About HIV Treatment:

1) HIV Medicines Are Responsible for the Death of an HIV-Positive Person and Not AIDS.

Facts: HIV if left untreated, can be fatal in under 10 years. Antiretroviral drugs help keep the viral load in the body to the minimum, thus preventing the destruction of the body's immune system. Without medicines, the body will be susceptible to thousands of bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections.

2) As the Newer Drugs Are Powerful, It Is Okay to Stop the Medicine for Some Time.

Fact: Do not stop taking antiretroviral drugs if you are experiencing some side effects or if you are tired of taking them. Consult your doctor, as he or she might prescribe a different drug with fewer side effects. Stopping the drug can result in the virus to multiply and develop resistance or your immune system can get affected.

To know more about HIV and AIDS, consult an HIV and AIDS specialist. You can post your queries regarding the same on Icliniq.

 
Last reviewed at: 08.Jun.2019

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