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8 most damaging misconceptions about HIV/AIDS

With all the modern treatments, HIV is no big deal.

India TV Lifestyle Desk, New Delhi [Updated:15 Jun 2017, 1:28 PM IST]
HIV/AIDS can be beaten now
HIV/AIDS can be beaten now

It's true that HIV/AIDS no longer makes headlines like it did 20 years ago. But this doesn't mean that it's not a health concern anymore. Even though it was declared a pandemic, there are still many myths associated with it. Myths regarding HIV/AIDS are mostly irrelevant. The most dangerous thing about these myths is that HIV can be spread to millions of people just because of lack of information or carefree attitude. So, let's deviate our attention for while on this important yet ignored topic: HIV/AIDS. 

HIV

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. If untreated, a person’s immune system will eventually be destroyed.

AIDS

AIDS refers to a log of symptoms and illnesses that occur at the very final stage of HIV infection.

Facts about HIV

  • There is effective antiretroviral treatment available so people with HIV can live a normal, healthy life.
  • The earlier HIV is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start – leading to better long-term health.
  • HIV is found in semen, blood, vaginal and anal fluids, and breast milk.
  • HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine.
  • Use of condoms and other protective measures during intercourse is the best way to prevent HIV virus.
  • Always use a clean needle and syringe, and never share equipment.
  • If you inject drugs always use a clean needle and syringe, and never share equipment.
  • If you are pregnant and living with HIV, the virus in your blood could pass into your baby’s body, or after giving birth through breastfeeding.

 

FACTS ABOUT AIDS

  • AIDS is also referred to as advanced HIV infection or late-stage HIV.
  • AIDS is a set of symptoms and illnesses that develop because of advanced HIV infection which has destroyed the immune system.
  • Treatment for HIV means that more people are staying well, with fewer people developing AIDS.
  • Although there is currently no cure for HIV with the right treatment and support, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives. To do this, it is especially important to take treatment correctly and deal with any possible side-effects.

Misconceptions of HIV/AIDS

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1: HIV is a death sentence:

“With proper treatment, we now expect people with HIV to live a normal life span,” says Dr. Michael Horberg, national director of HIV/AIDS.

2: You can tell if someone has HIV/AIDS by looking at them.

There are no visible signs of HIV/AIDS. “Some people develop HIV symptoms shortly after being infected. For others, it can take up to 10 years for symptoms to appear,” Further, the first symptoms of HIV, including a fever, fatigue, and muscle aches, may only last for a few weeks.

3: HIV-positive people can’t safely have children.

It is possible to have a child if you or your partner is HIV-positive. While it’s impossible to guarantee that the infection won’t pass on to the child, the U.S. department of health and human services says there are ways to greatly reduce the risk. For example, an HIV-positive woman can take antiretroviral therapy (ART) before and during pregnancy. “As long as a partner takes their medication correctly and has an undetectable viral load, the likelihood of transmitting the infection to their child is pretty slim to none.

4: HIV always leads to AIDS.

HIV is the infection that causes AIDS. But this doesn’t mean all HIV-positive individuals will develop AIDS.

“With current therapies, levels of HIV infection can be controlled and kept low, maintaining a healthy immune system for a long time and therefore preventing opportunistic infections and a diagnosis of AIDS,” explains Dr. Richard Jimenez, professor of public health at Walden university.

5: With all the modern treatments, HIV is no big deal.

This sort of attitude has led some to practice carefree and reckless sexual behaviour.

“The younger generation has lost some fear of HIV because of the success of treatment,” explains Dr. Adalja. “This has caused them to engage in risky behaviours, leading to high rates of infection in young men who have sex with other men.”

 6: Take precautions

According to Dr. Horberg, a recent study from kasier Permanente followed people using measurements for two and a half years, and found that it was effective at preventing HIV infections. However, it doesn’t protect against other sexually transmitted diseases or infections. Precautions recommended to be used in combination with safer sex practices, as our study also showed that half of the patients participating were diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection after 12 months,” says Dr. Horberg.

7: If you test negative for HIV, you can have unprotected sex.

If you or your partner was recently infected with HIV, it may not show up on an HIV test until about three months later. “Traditionally used antibody-only tests work by detecting the presence of antibodies in the body that develop when HIV infects the body,” explains Dr. Schochetman. “But it takes about three weeks for there to be enough antibodies for detection.”

8: If both partners have HIV, there’s no reason for a condom.

Not all strains of HIV are the same, and being infected with more than one can lead to greater complications, or a “superinfection,” according to Dr. Schochetman. “The new HIV strain may exhibit a different drug resistance profile than the original HIV infection,” he explains. “And the new virus may show resistance to the current treatment, or cause the current treatment option to be ineffective.”