There are many myths and incorrect social ideas that surround HIV and AIDS. People often even assume that the two are the same, which is definitely not the case. Myths regarding the transmission of the disease and the treatments are in abundance as well. So, on this World AIDS Day 2016, here’s an attempt to address some of the most widespread misconceptions about it.
According to a UNAIDS report, more number of people are on HIV treatment, leading to fewer number deaths, but it continues to be a major health challenge looming over the world with a cure yet to be discovered. With nearly 37 million people living with the virus at the end of 2015, according to the World Health Organisation, it is important to rise above all discriminatory practices and dispel the myths around this disease to help patients and their families. According to several health bodies, these seem to be some of the most popular misconceptions about HIV/AIDS.
AIDS and HIV are same: No, they could be related but different. When someone is described as living with HIV, it means they have HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) in their body. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a term which applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection, when the immune system of the body becomes extremely vulnerable or fails.
HIV spreads through insect bites: When an insect, such as a mosquito bites, it only sucks blood – it does not inject the blood of the last person it bit into the body of the next.
Sharing food, cutlery, and clothes spread AIDS: HIV doesn’t survive on surfaces; the virus cannot get transmitted by touching. Even the disease is not transmitted by air or water. So, by swimming with an infected person in the same pool, the virus will not spread. Using same toilet and washroom is also completely safe. Even coughing, sneezing or spitting does not spread the virus.
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Kissing and physical contact is not safe: HIV can’t be passed on from kissing. There is only a risk if you both the parties have large open sores or bleeding gums and blood is exchanged. HIV does not spread with sweat, urine or even faeces.
Oral sex, mutual masturbation is unsafe: The chances of transmission by oral sex are extremely low and the exception is the same as kissing. Mutual masturbation is also safe as the virus does not exist outside the body. Only in case of using any sexual devices, condoms should be used at all time.
No sex with infected person: If one person is positive and one person is negative, it is not necessary the virus will be transmitted; if proper protection is taken, one can have sex too. Condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Also, if someone living with HIV is undergoing treatment, with an undetectable viral load, there is no risk of them passing on HIV.
It is a disease only among LGBT community: HIV can affect anyone be it a heterosexual or homosexual person. It is true that the number of patients in the gay community is more, but this misconception couldn’t be farther from the truth. Anyone who has had sex without a condom with multiple partners or shares needles when injecting drugs is at risk of HIV.
Both partners have HIV, so no protection needed: AIDS is a deadly disease and every infected person must ensure protection. Even the antiretroviral drugs don’t keep you from passing the virus to others. Therapy can keep the viral load down but HIV is always present in the body and can be transmitted to others.
Infected mother always transmit HIV to infant: Recent developments and researches have successfully stopped transmission of the virus from mother to foetus. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if the mother takes HIV drugs and is virally suppressed, the chances of transmission can be less than one in 100 cases. Also note that studies have shown being pregnant will not accelerate the spread of the virus in the mother.
AIDS is a death sentence: Earlier the disease had high mortality rate with no diagnosis and treatment, however with ARTS medication, care and support the life expectancy has been better