AIDS and HIV are, unfortunately, almost always misunderstood. In fact, ever since it was first discovered during the 1980s, there have been quite a lot of myths and dangerous misconceptions about them. Although education on HIV and AIDS has become more widespread and both the stigma and death rates are decreasing, it is still imperative to know the distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to these diseases. Here, we’ve listed down the most common misconceptions about HIV, as well as the truth behind each misconception.
MYTH 1: People can get infected with the virus through HIV testing
Some people claim that taking an HIV test gets you infected with the virus. However, the nurse reuses a needle from an HIV-diagnosed patient, there’s no way the screening can pass on the infection to you.
MYTH 2: It’s possible to catch the disease from using the toilet seat
It’s impossible for HIV to get transmitted through casual contact, such as through a handshake or touching a doorknob or toilet seat. The known ways that the HIV virus can be passed are by engaging in unprotected sex, using intravenous drugs, being exposed to bodily fluids—including blood—of an infected individual, undergoing blood transfusion, and a mother passing the virus to her child through birth. The transmission of HIV through blood transfusion did happen during the 1980’s before HIV screening became a routine for donating blood, but it’s very unlikely to happen now given the modern medical facilities these days.
MYTH 3: The cure for HIV/AIDS has been found
Certain medications has been available in medical centres with a safe HIV test in Singapore to suppress HIV on infected individuals, as well as to lower the load of virus they carry. These treatments are used to prevent or prolong the progression of HIV into AIDS for several years. Unfortunately, researchers still have not found yet a cure to completely get rid of the virus from the body of an infected patient.
MYTH 4: You’ll likely die from AIDS, if you have been diagnosed with HIV
In earlier years, being diagnosed with HIV means that the person would develop AIDS and eventually dies from health complications caused by the disease; this, however, is no longer true nowadays. Combining medicine intake with complementary therapies and lifestyle changes is already enough to keep an infected patient from developing AIDS or any fatal complications related with the disease for as long as they live.
MYTH 5: Unprotected sex is okay if you and your partner already have HIV
Being diagnosed with HIV doesn’t mean that the both of you can ignore the disease and live the way you did before diagnosis. To decrease your chances of getting AIDS, consider getting an HIV specialist to manage your illness. You will also have to take necessary precautions to avoid exposing other people to the virus. Such precautions include abstinence from unprotected sex or sharing needles with anybody, and religiously following the advices from your healthcare and HIV team.
MYTH 6: It’s impossible to get or spread HIV through oral sex
A common myth Singapore health experts usually hear is that HIV cannot be contracted or spread through oral intercourse. This is not true. If the person doing the oral activity has open wound (no matter how small) in their mouth and comes into contact with bodily fluids from an infected person, then they can get the infection with the disease the same way as having unprotected anal or vaginal sex. The best thing you and your partner can do to reduce your risk is to use a barrier in the form of condom or dental dam.
MYTH 7: HIV can be carried and spread by mosquitoes
While mosquitoes may serve as carriers of illnesses like malaria and West Nile Virus, these insects are not known to spreading HIV through their bites. If it’s possible for these insects to transmit the disease, then there would probably be countless cases of HIV among children, adolescents and individuals who have never practiced sexual intercourse in their life.
MYTH 8: You will know if you have been infected with HIV
People with HIV don’t always feel sick. In fact, it’s possible to get the infection for quite awhile before developing any of its symptoms. Taking an anonymous HIV test is the most accurate way to find out whether or not you are infected with HIV.
MYTH 9: AIDS and HIV are caused by different virus
Some people claim that AIDS and HIV are caused by different viruses, but this too isn’t true. Without getting the right treatment, HIV will eventually and definitely progress into AIDS. However, by undergoing HIV testing and the right treatments, most HIV diagnosed individuals are able to prevent or delay its progression to AIDS.
MYTH 10: You won’t spread HIV if you’re taking certain medications for it
Even if you’re taking medications, it’s still possible for you to infect other people if you share needles, have unprotected sex, or expose them to your blood or bodily fluids.
MYTH 11: Taking birth control pills will protect me from HIV
There are a lot ways to protect yourself from HIV, but using birth control pills is not one of them. Instead of using the pill, opt for medications that can help you fight the virus. One is the pre-exposure prophylaxis pill (also known as PrEP Pill), a once-daily medication to prevent HIV infection; and the other is the post-exposure prophylaxis pill (also known as PEP Pill), which should be taken after being exposed to the virus.
MYTH 12: Women who are diagnosed with HIV can’t have babies
Although HIV will be transmitted from the mother to the child, it’s complete possibly – and normal – for infected mothers to give birth to healthy and happy babies. Also, there are various options available for HIV-positive women who are looking into having children.
To properly protect yourself against HIV, it’s crucial that you know which information are true and which are misconceptions. So ensure that you keep the above myths in mind, and you’re well on your way to having a healthy and HIV-free life.