December 1 is World AIDS day. The disease which a cure has yet to be found and has left those infected with the stigma of being patients for life. According to a survey conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 36.7 million people worldwide are living with HIV.
Although it has been more than 30 years since HIV was first discovered and reported, there are still many myths about HIV/AIDS circulating in society. This also causes a lot of confusion between which one is a myth and which one is a fact. Find out the truth behind these myths, so that you can have a better understanding of HIV.
Myths Vs Facts of HIV
1. Myth: HIV is the same as AIDS
Fact: HIV and AIDS are two different things. HIV is the name of a virus that attacks the body's immune system, while AIDS is the final stage of long term HIV infection as the body's immune system paralyzed by the virus.
2. Myth: We will be infected with HIV if we live with or associate with HIV patients.
Fact: Various studies have been done and the results prove that HIV is not transmitted through skin contact such as shaking hands, hugging, or sleeping at night in the same bed.
Although it is said that the disease is spread via contaminated body fluids, not all body fluids will transmit the disease such as tears, sweat and saliva when kissing.
3. Myth: HIV and AIDS can be transmitted through mosquito bites
Fact: Although HIV is transmitted via blood, to date there is no scientific evidence to show that mosquito bites can be a vector to the transmission of the HIV virus.
Although a mosquito may have sucked the blood from an HIV patient when it moved on to its other prey it did not drain the previous blood to others. In addition, the lifespan of the HIV virus in these insects will not last long because it is not an ideal host for it.
4. Myth: Individuals who have received treatment will not spread HIV
Fact: HIV treatment can help control the symptoms of the disease but the individual still has the potential to spread the HIV virus to others.
This is because the treatment given will only reduce the level of HIV viral load in the blood, but research shows that the virus is still contained in the blood or body fluids and has the potential to be transmitted.
5. Myth: Individuals and their partners are HIV positive, so there is no need to practice safe sex
Fact: Although both are HIV/AIDS positive, practising safe sex remains important to prevent the risk of the virus mutated or evolved because it is possible that both individuals have different type of HIV. If this happens it can also worsen the patient's condition.
6. Myth: Signs and symptoms of HIV appear as soon as they are infected.
Fact: Some HIV infected individuals do not show any symptoms for many years. In fact, there are cases where symptoms only appear only after 10 years of being infected. Besides, the symptoms of HIV are similar to the symptoms of other diseases which makes it difficult to identify.
Therefore, the only way to know exactly if an individual is infected with HIV is by doing an HIV test.
7. Myth: HIV positive pregnant women will inevitably infect or transmit the infection to their babies in the future.
Fact: Mother to child transmission of HIV is called vertical transmission. Consistent antiretroviral treatment in HIV positive pregnant women can reduce the risk of transmission of this infection to the unborn baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.
8. Myth: All people with HIV can be identified through their behaviour and physical appearance.
Fact: HIV positive people behave and have the same physical appearance as healthy people.
9. Myth: People with HIV become infected because they do immoral things.
Fact: Anyone can be infected with HIV even if they do not engage in risky activities such as having multiple sex partners and sharing needles. Many HIV-positive children are the result of vertical transmission from their mothers, or women/men who are infected because of a cheating partner, or victims of sexual violence such as rape. There are also many health workers who are infected with HIV while performing treatment procedures on patients.
10. Myth: It is said that there are alternative medicines that can cure HIV effectively and efficiently.
Fact: Until now, there is still no drug that can cure HIV/AIDS has been successfully developed. However, the infection can be controlled with antiretroviral medications and most patients with this infection can have a normal and good quality of life.
11. Myth: Oral sex cannot transmit the HIV virus.
Fact: Although the risk is low, oral sex is also a risky activity that can potentially transmit the HIV virus.
12. Myth: Only young people are vulnerable to HIV infection
Fact: The HIV virus attacks all ages regardless of age and gender.
13. Myth: There is no need to do regular HIV testing if the body feels healthy and has no contact with people living with HIV.
Fact: HIV can be spread through a variety of mediums. Among them are blood transfusions and needles, which can also be contaminated with HIV. HIV testing needs to be done so that treatment can be given and prevent the spread of this infection. Therefore, if you are involved in risky activities, you are advised to do this test periodically.
14. Myth: Sharing food, crockery or sharing the same toilet with an HIV positive person can lead to HIV infection.
Fact: The HIV virus cannot survive or live outside the body for a long period of time and the virus cannot be spread from the surface of food and utensils as described above.
15. Myth: All individuals who have been diagnosed with HIV are just waiting for the time for HIV disease to turn into AIDS.
Fact: Although HIV infection can cause AIDS, not all HIV infected individuals will develop AIDS. Those who adhere to the treatment regimen will usually have a good quality of life and health.
16. Myth: HIV patients will die soon after diagnosed as HIV positive.
Fact: The invention of retroviral drugs allows HIV patients to live longer, have a better quality of life and health and able to perform daily activities like normal people.