HIV myths and misconceptions

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS. For many reasons, AIDS is a disease that is commonly misunderstood disease and, as a result, unduly feared.

But the best weapon against fear is knowledge. Following are the facts about some of the most common myths and misconceptions about AIDS.

Myth #1: I shouldn't work or be friends with someone who's HIV positive because I might get it.
You can't get HIV through casual contact. In other words, you can't get AIDS by being in the same room, living in the same house, hugging or even kissing someone with the disease. HIV isn't transmitted by touch or through saliva. It is transmitted through sexual activity or through the sharing of needles in intravenous drug use.

Myth #2: I can't get HIV from my boyfriend or girlfriend because I know this person loves me, and I trust him or her.
This can be a potentially deadly misconception. While it's true that people who love each other wouldn't intentionally give each other HIV, it's also true that one partner in a relationship can be HIV-positive and not know it. A person can have HIV for years and not show any symptoms. Even if you are in love, the only way for you to know for sure is if you're both tested.

Myth #3: There's a cure for HIV and AIDS.
Current treatments for this deadly disease are better than ever, but the bottom line is that these treatments only help prolong life, not cure the disease itself. When the treatments work, there's so little virus in the blood that blood tests can't detect it. However, research on patients with this "undetectable" level has shown that the virus is still there, hiding in a sleeplike state in the lymph nodes and other areas of the body. People whose HIV is in this state are probably in something similar to remission, and they must continue taking their medications to stay well. They can also still give HIV to someone else, so they should still practice safe sex.

Myth #4: I don't want to be tested, because if I find out I have HIV, my life is over anyway.
While finding out you're HIV-positive is devastating, it's important to get tested as soon as possible if you think you could be. The sooner you find out, the better your chances of responding well to the current treatment options, which are better than ever before. People with HIV are feeling better and living longer. While there's not yet a cure for AIDS, we hope that, in time, HIV may become an even more manageable illness, much like heart disease or diabetes.

Myth #5: I won't get HIV because I'm straight and I don't use IV drugs.
In fact, HIV rates continue to rise among heterosexuals. People who have multiple sexual partners are at the highest risk. Unfortunately, sometimes people are reluctant to tell potential sexual partners that they've had a lot of past encounters. So practice safe sex, get yourself tested, and get your partner tested, too.


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