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10 Common Myth Busters on HIV - AIDS read

Feb 09 2021


Given the inadequate knowledge and widespread misconceptions about this infection, HIV positive people get subjected to discrimination in personal and professional settings. There is a huge need for informing people about what is true about HIV and what isn’t. We take this opportunity to shed light on some common misconceptions regarding this disease.


A common myth is that HIV is the same as AIDS. This is far from true. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Testing positive for HIV means that the virus is detectable in your blood. This virus is known to cause AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a condition which is said to occur when the level of CD4 T cells (a kind of blood cells in the body) in the body falls below 200cells/mm³.


A lot of people think that they can tell by looking at someone if the person is HIV positive or not. That is not true. Testing for HIV is the only way of really telling whether a person is HIV positive or not. HIV positive individuals look no different from you and me.


Most people think they can get infected with the virus by simply being in the presence of an HIV+ person. This leads to a lot of discrimination in personal and professional fronts. Since HIV is present in the body fluids, it can spread only by engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse with the infected individual, using non-sterlized piercing tools while getting a tattoo and passing the disease from mother to child if the mother does not receive appropriate therapy.


A lot of people also think that blood-sucking mosquitoes can transmit HIV. This belief comes from the misconception that mosquitoes inject blood into the person they bite. But, contrary to popular belief, mosquitoes do not inject blood into the person they have bitten. Thus, they do not transmit HIV.


Another popular myth is that HIV also spreads by hugging or kissing people who are HIV positive. This is not true. As mentioned before, the virus spreads by the exchange of body fluids and/or by using infecting and non-sterilized needles and other piercing tools.


When we speak about unprotected sexual intercourse, many people believe that condoms are not 100% effective in preventing the transmission of the virus. Nothing could be further from the truth. Condoms are 99% effective in preventing the transmission of HIV. The remaining 1% occurs due to human error. Furthermore, oral sex can also transmit the virus. Thus, it is also advisable to use a condom during such acts.


A lot of HIV positive couples think that they don’t need to use condoms during sexual intercourse since both of them are already infected. However, condoms should still be used by HIV positive couples. Using protection helps in avoiding an unwanted pregnancy as well as reduce the risk of passing on the sexually transmitted diseases to the baby.


Additionally, it is a widespread belief that HIV positive mothers cannot have babies as they would transmit the infection to their children. However, with the currently available treatments, the risk of transmission from mother to child is only 2%. There are several measures that the expecting mother can and should take. Firstly, she needs to inform her healthcare provider about her HIV status so that appropriate action can be taken in the antenatal period. Secondly, a C-section is preferable in these women as the chances of transmission to the baby are very high during a vaginal delivery. Lastly, the mother needs to avoid breastfeeding her child as the virus is found to pass through milk.


Apparently, tests for HIV become positive as soon as a person gets infected with HIV. This is not true as the most commonly used tests for HIV detect substances called “antibodies” in the blood. The ELISA antibody test is among the most frequently used tests today. It takes about 612 weeks for these antibodies to become detectable by these tests. This period, between exposure to detection of antibodies, is called the window period. It is important to remember that people are still infectious during this period and thus appropriate preventive measures need to be used.

MYTH 10:

Additionally, a lot of people fear getting tested for HIV as they think the physician will tell their family or boss about the fact that they got tested or tested positive. HIV testing is a sensitive issue and one that is associated with long term implications for both the individual and his/her family. Thus, all aspects related to the test, the identity of the individual and the test results are kept confidential.

HIV/AIDS are life-threatening diseases but that is no reason to not talk about them. In fact, openly discussing HIV and AIDS helps in letting go of the stigma that surrounds them and banish any myths that end up twisting the truth.



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