AIDS by itself is not a virus but a set of symptoms that are caused by the HIV virus. It stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS can be considered as the most advanced stage of HIV and so, a part of HIV itself. It is not possible for AIDS to exist without HIV. People develop AIDS when their immune system becomes too weak to fight off infection, and they develop certain defining symptoms and illnesses. If HIV is treated properly and on time, AIDS will not develop. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced, and if left untreated, will ultimately lead to death. There are several myths surrounding both HIV and AIDS. Read on to know about twelve popular myths which surround HIV and AIDS!
If both partners have HIV, there’s no need for a condom
There are different strains of HIV and not using a condom may result in an exchange of the strains present in both partners. This can lead to a re-infection or the development of a more resistant HIV strain in one or both of the partners. This in turn will lead to a more difficult treatment process for the disease. It could also result in the current treatment process becoming less effective or in the worst case, completely ineffective.
Mosquitoes spread HIV
While it is true that HIV can be spread if there is contact with the infected person’s blood, this infection cannot happen through mosquitoes or other insects. Mosquitoes suck out blood from people and do not inject them with it. So even in if a mosquito sucks the blood of an HIV positive person and goes on to bite an HIV negative person, the latter will not contract the disease.
Being around HIV positive people can spread the illness
This myth has been around for too long and is the primary reason that people suffering from this disease face discrimination. HIV can only be spread through the exchange of bodily fluids during sexual activity. It cannot be contracted by breathing the same air, or eating the same food as HIV positive people. Sharing items such as cutlery, towels, tables, etc. also cannot spread the illness. Since HIV cannot survive in water, one cannot be infected by swimming pools, baths, shower areas, or drinking water.
HIV cannot spread through oral sex
HIV spreads through exchange of bodily fluids. These fluids include semen, blood, breast milk, and vaginal fluids. During oral sex, there is a possibility that one of the partners will come in contact with any of the mentioned fluids. This however can be prevented if a condom is used. It is therefore a myth that HIV cannot spread through oral sex. It can if the partners are not careful and practise unsafe oral sex.
Being HIV positive equals death
This is yet another widely believed myth. While no cure has been found for HIV yet, it doesn’t mean that all those who suffer from it will die a painful death. With the current advancements in the medical field, several HIV victims are able to lead long, healthy, normal lives. Of course, this is only possible if the person undergoes proper medical treatment and diligently follows the doctor’s advice.
HIV is a homosexual disease
Although the group that is highest at risk for contracting this disease is homosexual men, this does not make the disease itself homosexual. Statistics show that there are more and more cases of heterosexual people, both men and women contracting the disease because of several unsafe practises. These include having unprotected sexual intercourse, oral sex, and sharing needles. Irrespective of sexuality and personality, the HIV virus infects all those who don’t take precautions while indulging in activities.
Having sex with a virgin cures HIV
Nobody knows the origin of this myth but is definitely one of the silliest! Nothing can cure HIV. At the most, the illness can be controlled with the help of medication and treatment. Even with this, there is always the possibility that without proper care, a stronger, more resistant strain can develop and lead to further complications. Irrespective of future developments in the medical field, it can be stated confidently that having sex with a virgin will definitely not cure one of HIV! In fact, it will lead to the spread of the infection to the virgin if protection is not used.
HIV positive people cannot have children
This is untrue. There have been several instances of HIV positive couples having healthy children. HIV positive women remain fertile and often give birth to healthy babies. If mother and child are undergoing proper treatment, the presence of the virus in the body significantly reduces. This makes it possible for the baby to be HIV negative. Even in the case that it is passed on to the offspring, it is not necessary for the virus to be active. There have also been instances where the virus remains dormant in the child throughout his/her life and they live completely normal, healthy lives.
Pregnant women always pass the illness to their children
Without any treatment, HIV-infected mothers used to pass HIV to their new born babies about 25% of the time. However, with current medical advancements, the development of new technology, and modern treatments, this rate has now dropped below 2%. There is therefore a very small chance that pregnant women will pass on the disease to their children.
You can identify those with HIV/AIDS by looking at them
A person can be HIV-positive and not have any symptoms for years. The only way for anyone to know if they are HIV-positive is to get tested. There is no way for anyone to determine if either they or people around them are HIV positive simply by observing them.
HIV always leads to AIDS
AIDS is an advanced stage of HIV and develops when proper and timely treatment is not provided. However, it is not necessary for every individual who has HIV to develop AIDS. In many instances, those undergoing treatment for HIV see a significant drop in the presence of the virus. While it cannot be completely cured, it can be kept under control for as long as the individual wants to lead a healthy life. The belief that HIV always leads to AIDS is yet another myth that should be discarded.
HIV can be spread through non-sexual physical contact
HIV and by extension, AIDS can only be spread by an exchange of bodily fluids. Simple physical contact cannot cause infection. If the physical contact involves open wounds which can come into contact with fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, or blood of an infected person, there is a chance of infection. Simple activities such as shaking hands or hugging will not cause infection. It is therefore a myth, that HIV can be spread through non-sexual physical contact.
This article was hopefully informative and dispelled some of your fears about HIV and AIDS. The disease is truly a terrible one to go through but the process can be made easier with timely interventions and social support.