It’s myth-busting time for a very important cause. December 1st is World AIDS Day and we couldn’t let it pass by without showing our support. Although there are Hollywood films like the ’90s Philadelphia and last year’s Dallas Buyers Club that use the medium of film (and a glittering star cast) to portray the challenges faced by the HIV/AIDS community, there are still a lot of basic misconceptions that exist. Let’s bust ’em for good.
– You don’t ‘get’ AIDS. This is not just us playing with semantics. What we mean is you get HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) which refers to the early stages of the disease. HIV develops over time into what we call AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
– What happens is that HIV batters the immune system over the years and leaves it too weak to fight off common germs. This later stage is AIDS which is fatal.
– HIV/AIDS cannot be passed on simply by being near an infected person.
– You cannot get it by sharing food, sharing the same cup/spoon or other utensils, using the same clothes, bed sheets or even toilet seat as an HIV/AIDS-infected person. So go ahead and be sociable with an HIV patient. It doesn’t hurt to be friendly!
– Saliva can carry the virus, but it’s NOT a significant amount that would infect you. So it’s okay to hug and kiss an HIV Positive person.
– The virus enters through the blood stream, through bodily fluids.
– Mosquito bites cannot pass on the virus, no matter how many times they bite you. (Although, if they keep biting you, we suggest you get some insect repellant!) Blood sucking insects suck blood; they don’t inject it into people. And besides, even if the insect were to have bitten an HIV positive person and bitten you after, the virus would not be able to live long enough in the insect to transmit the virus from its body to yours anyway. Booyah to that myth too!
– If you have HIV, you will not immediately look or feel like Tom Hanks was portrayed in the last scenes of the film Philadelphia. You may not see symptoms of HIV for years together. Or you might get a recurrent cough or other smaller symptoms and not much more. If you’re concerned or doubtful, get checked. Better safe than sorry.
– If you find out you have HIV, know that we have better antiretroviral drugs to help improve quality of life as you deal with the disease. There is no cure, but there is better treatment.
– If you and your partner have HIV, it doesn’t mean condoms are of no use now. There are different strains of the virus and you need to protect yourself from getting re-infected with another one. Practice safe sex. No. Matter. What.
– Drug treatment does not nullify the effect of the virus. So if you think you don’t need to use a condom because you’re on the antiretroviral drugs, you’re wrong. You still need a condom during sex.
– The virus can also be transmitted through oral sex if one of you has any open wounds, abrasions, cuts, or even a sore, inflamed throat.
And so it doesn’t get lost in the series of misconceptions we still have about HIV and AIDS, here is a little reminder to ourselves to be kind rather than discriminatory and judgemental of those with HIV/AIDS.
In conclusion, practice safe sex (oral, vaginal or anal), don’t share needles, and be kind!