The Top 10 Myths About HIV and AIDS
Sometimes it seems that the myths and misconceptions about HIV and AIDS spread even faster than the virus itself. December is National AIDS Awareness Month, and there’s no better time to shed some light on the truth behind HIV. Familiarize yourself with the following myths and learn about HIV prevention. The more you know about this sexually transmitted disease, the safer you’ll be.
1. You can get HIV or AIDS from causal contact. This is perhaps one of the most widely believed myths about HIV and AIDS, but the virus can only be transmitted through semen, vaginal fluid, blood or breast milk. So kissing someone with AIDS, hugging someone with HIV, sharing a drink with someone who has the virus – none of these forms of causal contact put you at risk.
2. There’s a cure. Many victims of the virus are so desperate to get healthy that they fall prey to con artists who offer them a cure. In choosing alternative therapies, some patients forgo traditional treatments and can even make themselves sicker as a result. Researchers are getting closer to finding a cure every day, but until they do, victims of the virus shouldn’t trust alternative therapies.
3. Only gay men and drug users get aids. It’s this myth about HIV that causes so many people to write off the idea of safe sex, putting them at great risk for exposure. The HIV virus doesn’t care about your age, your race or your sexual preference. If a virus can get into another host, it will – that’s all it does, and that’s why it’s here. There’s no specific group of people that get HIV and AIDS, and your social or sexual identity doesn’t make you immune.
4. Mosquitoes can infect you. Even in areas where mosquitoes swarm and AIDS is common, this myth about HIV and AIDS is simply untrue. People fear that because the virus is spread through the blood, blood-sucking insects can act as carriers and infect people through a bite. However, there is no scientific evidence that suggests that insects like mosquitoes can infect humans with the virus through a bite.
5. You can tell if a person is HIV positive. The only way to know that you or your partner don’t have HIV or AIDS is to get tested often. Individuals can have the virus and not show symptoms for a very long time, even though the virus is active and contagious. Never assume you can tell that a potential partner is negative, and always practice safe sex to protect yourself.
6. If you’re both positive, there’s no need for protection. Even if two partners are both HIV positive, they should still use protection and practice safe sex. Why? Because by not practicing safe sex, they risk exposing each other to new and potentially treatment-resistant strains of the virus.
7. Seniors don’t have to worry about HIV. This common myth about HIV is the reason seniors are one of the fastest growing groups of people infected with HIV. Seniors assume that since they can’t get pregnant, there’s no need for protection. But when seniors don’t use condoms, they make themselves even more susceptible to this sexually transmitted disease.
8. You can’t get HIV from oral sex. Although the risk of infection is lower than with anal or vaginal sex, if you have oral sex with someone who is HIV positive, it is possible that you can contract the disease. To protect yourself, practice safe oral sex. Use a condom or latex barrier.
9. Women with HIV can’t have children. Although late-stage AIDS patients can become infertile or risk miscarriage, women with HIV and AIDS can still have children. If proper medical procedures are followed (delivering via C-section, abstaining from breastfeeding and administering certain drugs to the mother and child, for example) then the risk of the child becoming HIV-positive drops to as little as two or three percent.
10. HIV does not cause AIDS. Some believe that the span of time between HIV infection and the appearance of AIDS is reason to believe that one does not cause the other. Others cite symptoms similar to other diseases and claim that the causes of AIDS lie elsewhere. Similar to myths about HIV cures, this myth is responsible for stopping many who are infected from receiving proper treatment. Although this myth isn’t as widely accepted as some of the others, its propagation can be just as harmful.
The war on AIDS needs to be fought with knowledge, not just medicine. Like any sexually transmitted disease, AIDS is preventable. The more we understand about this deadly disease – and the more easily we are able to separate fact from fiction – the easier that fight will be. Observe National AIDS Awareness Month by sharing this list with your friends and family and helping to spread the truth about HIV and AIDS.
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