To support for people living with HIV and to commemorate the people who have died and to fight against the HIV epidemic, one of the WHO's global health days - the World AIDS Day is held on December 1 every year. The 30th Anniversary of World AIDS Day campaign comes up with the theme “Know your status” to urge people to know their HIV infection status through testing and access to full range of safe, effective, quality and affordable HIV services which include medicines and diagnostics.
There are lots of myths and misconceptions about how a person can get HIV. Not everything you hear about HIV and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is true. By knowing the facts, you can get a sigh of relief and help others to bust myths.
Myth 1: A casual contact can spread HIV
Fact: HIV is not passed on by day-to-day casual contact such as shaking hands, hugging, kissing, using a toilet, using the same glass, door nab, dish, cigarette, air used by an HIV-infected and being close to coughing, sneezing by an HIV-infected.
Myth 2: Kissing can transmit HIV
Fact: HIV is not transmitted through saliva. Only unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing needles, breastfeeding and direct blood to blood contact with an HIV infected person can transmit the virus. There is no HIV in an infected person's bodily fluids such as saliva, sweat, tears, urine or faeces.
Myth 3: Sharing food spreads HIV
Fact: Acids in the stomach can destroy the HIV virus if the food contaminated with HIV-infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. You won't get HIV from water too.
Myth 4: An antiretroviral therapy can stop spreading HIV
Fact: ART can only reduce the risk of transmission by keeping the viral load down to undetectable levels. So the HIV virus is still present in the body and there are chances that virus can be transmitted through sex, injections or breastfeeding. Practising safe sex won't make someone else HIV-positive.
Myth 5: Mosquito bites spread HIV virus
Fact: When a mosquito or another bloodsucking insect bites an HIV infected person, the virus enters into the insect can't reproduce and the HIV inside them lives for only a short time. So a mosquito or any other insect cannot transmit HIV to another person when it bites.
Myth 6: You can only have one sexually transmitted infection (STI) at a time
Fact: A person with an STI can not immune to other STIs. Because the immune system is already compromised in the presence of an existing STI so that it makes a person more vulnerable to other STIs as well as HIV transmission too. You may get the same infection again and again. The disease in its initial stage doesn't show any symptoms when you become infected with an STI but still you can infect others.
Myth 7: HIV-positive? Life is over OR AIDS is a death sentence
Fact: When AIDS first showed up, there was a very high death rate registered due to the lack of knowledge, absence of effective medications and fear. But the improved medications such as antiretroviral drugs started allowing the HIV-positive people to have a long and normal life.
Myth 8: HIV only affects homosexuals and drug users
Fact: Persons those who have unprotected sex or sharing already used injections which have contaminated with HIV-infected blood are more likely to be infected. Through breastfeeding, infants can be infected with HIV from their mothers. The enzymes in saliva reduce the risk of HIV transmission in oral sex but if there are open sores or cuts in the mouth the risk of HIV increases. Using condoms and lubes for anal and vaginal sex can work well to prevent sexual transmission of HIV or STIs such as gonorrhoea, syphilis.
Myth 9: It's easy to recognise HIV symptoms or People with AIDS look sick
Fact: We can not tell that someone has HIV by the look of their eyes. The symptoms of HIV vary from person to person and many people don’t show any symptoms and signs. Many times, they do not even know they are infected. Without treatment, the virus will get worse over time and damage the immune system. To diagnose the disease, you only have to go through a test.
Myth 10: AIDS can be cured
Fact: Today's medications can cut the death rate from AIDS. But these very expensive medications have serious side effects and have to be taken every day for the rest of your life. If you miss too many doses, HIV can develop resistance to the medication you take and they may stop working.
Myth 11: If both partners have HIV, unprotected sex is OK
Fact: Unprotected sex between partners or two people with HIV can lead one or both of them reinfected with a different strain of HIV. HIV changes differently over time. The strain your partner had originally may not be the strain he or she has now. In different strains of HIV, the virus gradually become drug resistant and treatment will become hard. So practice safe sex procedures.
Myth 12: Women with HIV cannot have a baby
Fact: Advances in HIV treatment can lower the risk of spreading HIV from mother to child. If the mother takes prescribed HIV drugs and is virally suppressed, they can have healthy children.
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