Myths About HIV/AIDS
Having correct information is the key to understanding HIV/AIDS. Some common myths about HIV/AIDS are listed below.
- Women can't give men HIV. It is true that it's much harder for men to get HIV from women, but it does happen. Men have fewer areas on the penis where the virus can enter the bloodstream – at the urethra (the opening of the tip) and through cuts or sores on the shaft. But if a partner has an untreated STD like syphilis or gonorrhea, which can break the skin, the risk of his getting HIV from his female partner increases.
- Since I am HIV positive, if I get pregnant, I will spread the disease to my unborn baby. When the right treatments are used, a woman who knows about her HIV infection early in pregnancy now has a less than two percent chance of delivering a baby who has HIV. Without treatment, this risk is approximately 25 percent in the United States.
- He doesn't "look" like someone with HIV. Have you heard the old saying, "everything that looks good, isn't good?" The 10-year latency period can prevent a person from knowing he or she is infected with HIV. Without knowing, that person may be practicing unsafe sex and may spread the virus to you! You can prevent passing the AIDS virus by not having sex or by using a condom, "no matter how good someone looks."
- HIV is the same as AIDS. HIV is the virus which leads to AIDS. Certain types of infections must be present for a person to be diagnosed as having AIDS. A person can be infected with HIV for years without having AIDS. Having HIV infection does not mean you have AIDS.
- We both have HIV. We don't need a condom. Safer sex is important among positive partners. Increasing evidence shows that re-infection can and does happen. You can infect your partner again if you are taking anti-HIV therapies, which you've become resistant to, and then you pass the drug-resistant strain of HIV to your partner. Likewise, if your partner is taking anti-HIV therapy, you could become infected with drug-resistant strains of HIV. Make sure to use a condom every time you have sex.
- The government produced AIDS to reduce certain groups of people. The government did not make this disease. Research suggests that AIDS appears to have started in Africa, where several monkey and chimpanzee species had been infected with a virus that is closely related to HIV. There are several ways by which humans may have become infected by this virus, including blood contact as chimpanzees are often killed and eaten in Africa. New research suggests that mutations or changes in a single gene may have turned the AIDS virus from a fairly harmless infection of monkeys and chimpanzees into a global killer of humans. The virus in humans appears to have lost a genetic trait that protected the immune system in monkeys and chimpanzees.
- Knowing who is on the "down low" will save me from getting HIV. Learning your partner's sexual and drug history is important. But the single most effective way to protect yourself from HIV is abstinence. Otherwise, make sure to use a condom every time you have sex.
- I cannot get HIV from tattoos or body piercing. A risk of HIV transmission does exist if tools contaminated with blood are not cleaned and sterilized properly between clients. The CDC recommends that tools that are intended to penetrate the skin be used once, then disposed of or thoroughly cleaned and sterilized between clients. If you are considering getting a tattoo or having your body pierced, ask the staff what steps they take to prevent the spread of HIV and other blood-borne infections, such as the hepatitis B virus. You also may call the local health department to find out what sterilization procedures are in place in the local area for these types of businesses.
- I have HIV. It is best for me to start drug therapy when I get sick. Even when you're feeling great, HIV is making billions of copies of itself every day and attacking your immune system. When you finally start feeling sick, HIV has already damaged your immune system and nothing can fully bring it back to normal. To protect your immune system, most health care professionals believe you should start HIV medicines before you become seriously ill.
- HIV can be cured. While many make claims of miraculous cures, the truth is there is no cure for HIV at this time. We've made great strides in HIV care. People have families and relationships, and continue to work despite their illness. In short, people are living with HIV and AIDS, but there is no cure yet.