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Top 10 HIV/AIDS myths busted

On the occasion of world AIDS day, we bust some common myths on HIV and also the difference between HIV positive and AIDS.

Written by Hema Subramanian |Updated : September 25, 2017 4:39 PM IST

Read this in Hindi.

December 1st is World AIDS Day

The theme for World AIDS Day from 2011-15 is Getting to Zero zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. Many people are highly misinformed about the disease and how it spreads and this often leads to stigmatisation of the HIV positive. To commemorate World AIDS Day we bust some of the most common myths about the condition:

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Myth 1: One can get HIV by being around people who are HIV+.

HIV can only be transmitted through HIV virus. The virus cannot spread through body fluids like blood, semen or breast milk, saliva, sweat or by touching. Here are few more ways you can t get HIV:

  • Breathing the same air as someone who is HIV+
  • Hugging, kissing or shaking hands with someone who is HIV+
  • Touching a toilet seat or doorknob handle after an HIV+ person
  • Sharing food with an HIV+ person

Myth 2: One can get HIV from mosquitoes.

There s no way you can get HIV from a mosquito. If a mosquito bites an HIV positive person and then bites a healthy individual, the virus is not transmitted as mosquitoes don t inject any blood into your system. However, if you kill the mosquito that has bitten an HIV positive person over a broken skin, there is a high chance that the blood might enter your body and might cause HIV infection. But this is not that common in real life.

Myth 3: A person who is HIV+ or has AIDS is easy to spot.

No, because symptoms of HIV/AIDS vary from person to person. In most cases, after contracting the virus people experience flu-like symptoms that disappear later. The condition can lay dormant for years without people realising that they suffer from the disease. Here's more on does being HIV positive mean you are suffering from AIDS?

Myth 4: HIV will progress to AIDS and the person will die soon

HIV only progresses to AIDS, if left untreated. Antiretroviral treatments can stop the progression of HIV to AIDS and the condition might remain subsided for many years. If the drug procedure is continued, the viral load in the blood is undetectable and the person will not exhibit any AIDS related health complications. Hence, it is necessary to take regular medication if suffering from HIV as it might prevent the HIV virus from affecting your immune resistance. Here are 12 diseases that affect people with HIV/AIDS.

Myth 5: The only people who get HIV are homosexuals, sex workers and intravenous drug users. I don t need to worry.

There s a common misconception that unless you are not a homosexual, sex worker or using intravenous drugs, you can t get HIV. Although these people fall in the high-risk group, the fact remains that anyone can get HIV. For example, even a healthy can get it from a faulty blood transfusion procedure and everyone needs to stay vigilant.

Myth 6: Drugs are so powerful that you can stop taking them after some time

Sometimes the medical treatment can be extremely agonising for patients because the drugs are quite potent. But stopping the procedure (without your doctor s consent) will again make the person vulnerable to the virus that can then allow opportunistic infections to attack the body. It s vital not to stop the medication procedure. All you can do is talk to your doctor about the side-effects and ask him if he/she can change the drugs. Read more about latest advances in HIV treatment in India.

Myth 7: One can't get HIV from oral sex

While it s true that HIV is not easily transmitted through oral sex as compared to anal or vaginal intercourse, you can t rule out your risk of getting infected with the virus. For example, a person s genitals could have cuts and bruises that could cause the virus to be transmitted.

Myth 8: Only people from the lower socio-economic class are affected by HIV/AIDS.

HIV knows no class. Anyone can fall prey to the condition. Participating in risky sexual behaviour like unprotected sex with strangers, unhygienic use of syringes and needles and transmission from an HIV positive mother to child are all possible scenarios.

Myth 9: HIV and AIDS are only caused through sex.

The viral strains can also spread through unsafe and unhygienic usage of needles. This can occur in hospitals, tattoo parlours and individuals taking intravenous drugs. Also, breast milk from an HIV-infected mother can cause HIV in the newborn if breastfed unknowingly. Very rarely, HIV can also spread through deep kissing if either of the persons are HIV+ and have bleeding gums. Also read about 33 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about HIV.

Myth 10: The baby of an HIV+ pregnant mother will also have the infection.

There are less than two percent chances of the baby being infected with HIV. If the condition of the mother is previously known, ART can prevent the unborn baby from being infected. Whether an HIV mother can or cannot breastfeed is still in a grey research area. One research in South Africa found that children who were breastfed by their HIV-positive mothers showed a lesser likelihood of mother-to-child transmission HIV than the ones who were breastfed and also given additional solids. Others state that HIV-positive mothers shouldn t breastfeed. For the record, the WHO endorses breastfeeding among HIV-positive women who are undergoing antiretroviral treatment.

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