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World AIDS Day: Debunking 7 Common Myths About HIV/AIDS

This year's theme for World AIDS Day is “Rock the Ribbon.”  The National AIDS Trust is dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV, protecting the rights of those who are living with the infection, and fighting stigma and discrimination related to it.

Shruti Kandwal
In this article we have debunked the top seven myths and false beliefs about HIV/AIDS
In this article we have debunked the top seven myths and false beliefs about HIV/AIDS

According to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 38.4 million people around the world are living with HIV. Even though there have been significant improvements in the treatment of HIV over the years, there is still a lot of misunderstanding about what it is like to live with the infection.

We consulted a number of professionals to gather their thoughts on the most severe misconceptions people hold regarding HIV/AIDS. These professionals treat patients, instruct medical students, and help others suffering from the disease. The following are the top seven myths and false beliefs that they, along with those who have HIV or AIDS syndrome, continue to combat against:

Myth 1: HIV is a death sentence

HIV infection is no longer a death sentence because of recent advancements in treatment. In reality, people with HIV today who follow their antiretroviral treatment regimens have a life expectancy that is almost comparable to that of HIV-negative people.

Myth 2: You can tell if someone has HIV/AIDS by looking at them

The majority of an HIV infection's symptoms are mild and unremarkable. An individual with HIV infection may exhibit signs and symptoms that are comparable to those of any other infection, such as fever, exhaustion, or general malaise. Additionally, the minor early symptoms generally disappear within a few weeks.

Antiretrovirals can be introduced early on, which will successfully manage the HIV virus. Antiretroviral therapy for HIV maintains a person's level of health comparable to that of other people with chronic illnesses.

The stereotypical signs and symptoms that are frequently connected to HIV are actually signs of complications that can develop from AIDS-related illnesses or complications. However, those symptoms won't exist in an HIV-positive person receiving proper antiretroviral therapy and medications.

Myth 3: HIV-positive people can’t safely have children

The most important thing an HIV-positive woman can do to get ready for pregnancy is to work with her doctor to start ART as soon as possible. The risk of transmitting HIV to the unborn child can now be as low as 1% or less if a woman takes her HIV medication as directed by a healthcare professional every day during her entire pregnancy (including labor and delivery) and for the first 4 to 6 weeks after the baby is born.

In the event that the HIV viral load is higher than desired, there are other measures for a woman who is HIV-positive to reduce the risk of transmissions, such as opting for a C-section or formula-stimulated bottle feeding after delivery.

It may also be possible for women who are HIV-negative but want to become pregnant with a man who is HIV-positive to take a specific medicine to help reduce the risk of transmission to both them and their unborn children. If the viral load is undetectable in males with HIV who are taking their ART medication, the risk of transmission is almost non-existent.

Myth 4: HIV always leads to AIDS

AIDS is carried on by HIV infection. However, this does not imply that all HIV-positive people will go on to get AIDS. HIV gradually attacks the immune system, resulting in AIDS, a condition of immune system weakness that is accompanied by a decreased immunological response and opportunistic infections. Early HIV infection treatment reduces the risk of developing AIDS.

Myth 5: With all of the modern treatments, HIV is no big deal

Despite significant medical progress in HIV treatment, complications from the infection can still arise, and for some people, the risk of death remains high.

Age, gender, sexuality, lifestyle, and treatment all affect a person's chance of contracting HIV and how it affects them. A person can estimate their personal risk and take precautions by using the Risk Reduction Tool provided by the CDC.

Myth 6: If I take PrEP, I don’t need to use a condom

If used daily, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine that can stop HIV infection before it even occurs.

Doctors claim that research that tracked PrEP users for 2.5 years discovered that it was largely successful at preventing HIV infections, again if taken daily. It does not, however, offer protection from other sexually transmitted illnesses or infections.

Myth 7: If both partners have HIV, there’s no reason for a condom

According to studies, an HIV-positive person who is regularly receiving antiretroviral medication, which lowers the virus' blood levels to undetectable levels, is unable to transfer the virus to a sexual partner. According to the current medical view, "Undetectable = Untransmittable."

The CDC advises using condoms throughout each sexual encounter even if both partners are HIV positive. It is sometimes possible to transfer a different strain of HIV to a partner, or in extremely rare circumstances, to transmit a strain of HIV that is resistant to the current ART medications.

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