Common Myths Regarding HIV And AIDS

About 1.2 Million Americans are infected with the human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 34,000 new HIV cases will develop in 2019 according to the CDC. This number is actually 8% lower than 2015's figure of 37,800.

HIV has long been stigmatized and misinformation have been used to cover it up. Pandemics have shown that fear is a major factor in all this. What are people misunderstandings about HIV? And what can be done to stop the epidemic of HIV infection? Oluwatosin Gorje (Ob/Gyn) is a specialist in reproductive infectious diseases and a medical doctor. She explains some common myths and helps people who have HIV live fulfilling, productive lives.

HIV: What does it mean?

HIV, if untreated can cause acquired immune deficit syndrome (AIDS). HIV attacks the immune system making it difficult to fight infection and cancer. The virus kills T cells (cells that protect our bodies from disease) and infects them.

HIV diagnosis does not necessarily mean that a person has AIDS. Untreated HIV can take up to 10 years before it becomes AIDS. Get tested to find out if HIV has been diagnosed.

You can experience flu-like symptoms up to two months or more after getting HIV. Acute HIV infection is also known as chills, fever, and mouth ulcers. The symptoms usually resolve within one week or one month.

"AIDS (stage 3) is the worst stage of HIV. "AIDS-infected people have severely damaged immune systems, so that they are more susceptible to opportunistic infection (OI) or severe illness." Dr. Goje says.

OIs have become less prevalent among HIV-positive people due to better treatment options.

HIV Infection Myths

Most stigmatization surrounding HIV stems from people misunderstanding the virus or not fully understanding its effects on the body.

We hide what we shame. We tend to not rise above things when we conceal them. It is not necessary to shame those living with HIV/AIDS in 2021. Research has received a lot of funding. Most of the HIV medications are safer, less harmful and have fewer side effects. This encourages more compliance.

Dr. Goje is very aware of all the HIV myths. She shares some common ones.

Myth 1. You can see if someone has HIV.

No, HIV-positive people cannot be identified by their physical appearance. It is not possible to determine if someone has HIV by looking at their symptoms. According to Dr. Goje, they may not show any symptoms or be symptomatic of another health condition."

Myth #2: HIV is only a problem for certain sexual orientations

HIV is a disease that can affect anyone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the behaviors and conditions that put people at greater risk for contracting HIV include:

Because of their exposure to semen, biologically speaking, HIV-infected people who have female genitalia may be more likely to contract it through heterosexual relationships.

Myth 3 - HIV effects childbirth and fertility

HIV doesn't affect fertility and birth, provided that women receive appropriate treatment. But, if you are pregnant and do not take your medication, it can cause mother-to-child (MTCT) transmission. HIV-positive pregnant women should not stop taking their medications or continue receiving treatment. According to Dr. Goje, a pregnant woman with HIV has a lower chance of infecting her baby if the mother's virus load is not detected.

Myth4: Condoms are not necessary if PrEP is being followed.

People who are at risk of HIV infection through sexual activity or injectable drug use can be protected with Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

PrEP is a medication that reduces HIV infection through sexual contact. PrEP also lowers HIV risk for people injecting drugs by around 74%. PrEP doesn't reduce the chance of getting other STDs. We must advocate for PrEP, as well correct condom use," says Dr. Goje.

Myth 5 - If HIV-positive partners, condoms are not necessary.

This is not true, Dr. Goje claims. HIV positive people may still be vulnerable to other STIs. These STIs are also called sexually transmitted disease (STDs).

Condoms are essential for preventing gonorrhea.

Myth 6 - HIV medication can treat HIV

Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is the name of medication for HIV. Although it doesn't cure HIV but can lower the severity of the disease if taken according to instructions, ART is not a treatment that will permanently cure the condition. According to the CDC, most people can get HIV under control in six months. Remember that ART cannot prevent transmission of STDs and STIs.

And while there have been reports about HIV being cleared from the body in a couple of cases, Dr. Goje says this is not a valid reason for people who are living with HIV to stop ART.

Myth 7- HIV can be spread by sharing cups and utensils.

True. You can contract HIV from bodily fluids contaminated by HIV. You can get HIV from bodily fluids of infected people, such as:

HIV can be transmitted through the linings of the lips, the anus, penis, vaginal and oral cavities.

HIV and AIDS are not transmitted from these places:

Myth 8 - Having HIV does not mean your life is finished "

People living with HIV can live a healthy, purposeful life if they are diagnosed early and treated promptly. Doctor Goje added that they are able to work and maintain meaningful relationships with their friends, family and partners.

For eradicating the stigma, education on hiv is crucial

Dr. Goje believes in community education when it comes HIV. According to Dr. Goje, people will be more inclined to support those living with HIV and less likely to judge them.

HIV isn't a death sentence. People, particularly loved ones, should know this. It is important for them to be able to comprehend the transmission process and to realize that HIV-positive people are providing immense value to their community and society. You can offer support, love and encouragement to them. They can offer a more effective support system if they are better informed about HIV.