10 Myths and Misconceptions About HIV/AIDS

There are a lot of myths about HIV/AIDS, which can result in panic and desperation, as well as creating barriers to the treatment and prevention strategies.

Knowing the facts about how HIV is transmitted can help you ease your anxiety and help you better manage the disease. Now let’s take a look at some of the common myths and the truth behind them.

Myth #1: HIV can be transmitted through casual contact

You cannot get HIV through casual contact, like sharing eating utensils, holding hands, hugging or even kissing. HIV can only be transmitted through infected blood, breast milk, semen, and vaginal fluids. It can also be transmitted through needles contaminated with HIV-infected blood, such as needles used for injecting drugs, tattooing, or body piercing.

Myth #2: Oral sex does not transmit HIV

The risk of HIV transmission through oral sex is very low, but the risk increases if you or your partner have large open sores on the genital area, or bleeding gums/ sores in the mouth.

The best advice is to avoid getting semen in the mouth, or always use a dental dam to eliminate this risk.

Myth #3: Mosquitoes can transmit HIV

You cannot get HIV from a mosquito bite. In fact, it does not inject the blood of the last person it bit. Also, HIV would not survive in a mosquito due to the different genetic makeup compared with human DNA. So, mosquitoes cannot transmit HIV.

Myth #4: HIV is a death sentence

When HIV/AIDS was first discovered, there was no effective treatment available and a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was felt like a death sentence. However, there has been tremendous progress in the treatment of HIV/AIDS over the years. A person living with HIV/AIDS can now continue to live a healthy, normal life.

Myth #5: HIV is a homosexual disease

HIV is not a homosexual disease. In fact, anyone can get HIV from unprotected sex with someone who has HIV, or through blood-to-blood contact, like sharing needles or tattooing. Also, HIV is spread most often through heterosexual contact worldwide.

Myth #6: An HIV-positive woman cannot become pregnant

With proper health care and HIV drugs, a woman living with HIV can have a healthy pregnancy. Although pregnant women who are HIV-positive can pass the HIV virus to their babies, but if the mother receives treatment with antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy, the chances of spreading HIV to the baby can be greatly reduced.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antiretroviral therapy (ART) can reduce the risk of a treated mother passing HIV to her baby to only 1 percent or less.

Myth #7: An HIV-positive person who takes antiretroviral therapy may not spread the virus

Antiretroviral therapy can reduce the amount of HIV in the body, but the virus still present in the body and can still be transmitted to others. So far, there is no drug that is 100% effective at preventing the spread of HIV.

Myth #8: Partners who are both HIV-positive do not need to use condoms during sexual contact

Even if both partners are HIV-positive, you and your partner may have different strains of the virus, which can lead to re-infection and make the treatment of HIV become more difficult.

To prevent re-infection, you still need to practice safe sex by using condoms and dental dams. Latex condoms protect the best against HIV infection.

Myth #9: Male circumcision may prevent HIV infection

Male circumcision does not prevent HIV infection but it has been shown to reduce the risk in men.

Several studies have found that male circumcision reduces a man’s risk by up to 60%. These findings have led the government to embark on a campaign to provide free male circumcision services.

When a man has sex, the penis gets micro cuts from friction, which is generally how HIV enters a male’s body. The foreskin has millions of CD4 receptors, the type of white blood cells that HIV latches on to.

Myth #10: Having sex with a virgin can cure HIV

This is absolutely not true. Sexual intercourse whether with a virgin or non-virgin is the primary manner in which HIV is spread. It will only pass the virus to the virgin who may or may not be HIV-negative.

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