The unabated spread of false information can prove harmful in any situation, most especially when it concerns health issues like HIV and AIDS. December 1 is World AIDS Day, and we're determined to help you banish your misconceptions about the often-debated condition.
That said, here are seven myths about HIV and AIDS you need to stop believing right now:
MYTH 1: HIV and AIDS are the same thing.
BUSTED: Having HIV is not the same as having AIDS. Put simply, HIV is a virus, and, in turn, AIDS is a condition caused by HIV. You can have HIV without developing AIDS, and many HIV positive people live for years without it ever turning into something worse.
MYTH 2: Only gay men get HIV.
BUSTED: Gay and bisexual men are disproportionately affected by HIV, but the disease is not exclusive to them—in the United Kingdom alone, there are thousands of heterosexual men and women living with HIV. This means that you should be using protection and getting tested regularly, no matter your sexual preference.
MYTH 3: You can get HIV from hugging or kissing.
BUSTED: No, it's not that simple. HIV is not transmitted via everyday contact, and you can’t contract it just by using the same cooking or dining utensils as someone living with HIV. There are only several very specific ways HIV transmission can occur, the top two of which are: 1) having sex with someone without a condom; or b) sharing injecting equipment.
MYTH 4: You contract HIV immediately after having sex with someone who is HIV positive.
BUSTED: Nope. Anti-retroviral treatment now means that people who are living with HIV and are undergoing treatment have an 'undetectable viral load.' Not only does this indicate that the person’s HIV is under control, it also means that it is almost impossible to transmit the virus to their partners during sex. Also, FYI: using condoms is highly recommended for HIV prevention.
MYTH 5: Once diagnosed, HIV is a death sentence.
BUSTED: Wrong! HIV treatment is now extremely effective at keeping people healthy and well. If you are diagnosed early on and start treatment right away, you have the same life expectancy as someone who does not have HIV.
MYTH 6: If you've been exposed to HIV, there's nothing you can do about it.
BUSTED: Definitely not true. If you think you might have recently been exposed to HIV, you can take something called post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed and taken consistently.
MYTH 7: If you are HIV-positive, your children will automatically have it, too.
BUSTED: Worry not, because HIV treatment can now be used to prevent transmission from occurring between mother and child. This means that a couple, where one or both are HIV positive, can now conceive and give birth to perfectly healthy, HIV-negative children.
Information from www.nat.org.uk and www.cdc.gov