Myths

... AROUND HIV AND AIDS

There are many HIV/AIDS myths. These myths contribute to stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.

MYTH: Lesbian women cannot contract HIV

Although the risk of transmission is much less than with gay or heterosexual sex, lesbians can transmit HIV to each other. Transmission of HIV can occur when you are exposed to blood, vaginal fluid and sometimes breast milk from an infected person. The highest risk is to have oral sex with a menstruating partner who is infected with HIV.

MYTH: HIV is a death sentence.

This is the biggest myth of all. In fact, these days, people are living with HIV longer than in previous years. Medications have improved dramatically and, as a result, so have the life span of people with HIV infection. If you have access to antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and to medical monitoring, there’s no reason you can’t live a long life even with HIV infection or AIDS. A better understanding of HIV allows those infected to live normal, healthy and productive lives.

MYTH: HIV can be cured.

There are many that claim that there are miraculous cures available; however there is still no cure for HIV. Be careful of claims that there are cures and miracles. It is not surprising that there are a lot of scam artists that claim that they have a cure for HIV/AIDS. Furthermore in certain cultures it is believed that if you have sex with a virgin that you will be cured. As a result, many young children have been exposed to HIV and have developed AIDS. There is no evidence to support this belief.

MYTH: Transmission myths

Many people still believe that HIV could be transmitted by a mosquito bite, by sharing a glass or cutlery with a person infected with HIV, or by close contact with another person (e.g., coughing, sneezing, hugging or kissing). Transmission of HIV can only occur when you are exposed to semen, blood, vaginal fluid and sometimes breast milk from an infected person. However, there is no compelling evidence of transmission through contact with the saliva or tears of an infected person.

MYTH: A condom is not needed for oral sex with a man.

This is a dangerous and untrue myth. Although the risk is lower than penetrative sex, you are still exposed to body fluids, which could make you vulnerable to contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Condoms should be used in every sexual encounter.

MYTH: People over 50 don’t get HIV.

This is untrue. HIV does not have an age restriction.

MYTH: Both me and my partner have HIV…we don’t need to protect ourselves.

Not true. Experts are seeing an increase in the incidence of re-infection. If you have HIV and are having unprotected sex with your infected partner, you will be transmitting your virus to her and she will be re-infecting you with her virus. It is widely believed that re-infection is worse than the initial infection as you are exposed to more of the HIV virus, which will likely become more aggressive.

MYTH: HIV is the same as AIDS.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. HIV is a virus that can cause AIDS. AIDS is a collection of illnesses; AIDS is acquired from the HIV virus when the immune system is almost depleted. (Link to HIV/AIDS)

MYTH: ARV medications are poison and more dangerous than the HIV virus.

When the first ARV medication became available, they weren’t as good as the current ARV medication. People still died of AIDS-related conditions. It’s true that some people experience serious side effects from ARV medications, but the death rate has dropped by about 80% because of the efficacy of these treatments. Researchers are working hard to make HIV treatments easier and safer to use.