6 Myths Around HIV And AIDS

Do you feel that HIV-positive people are dangerous or doomed? Then, this article is for you. Today, on World AIDS Day, we have busted some common myths.

By Siddiqha Naseem

6 Myths Around HIV And AIDS

In recent years, many non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have taken ardent efforts to spread awareness about Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). However, despite their numerous awareness programmes and social initiatives, plenty of false beliefs surrounding this sensitive subject still remain.

As a parent, it is your responsibility to educate your teenaged children about HIV and AIDS. But, are you equipped with the right information to convey the same to them? 

Let’s look at some of the common myths that most people believe in:

Myth 1: HIV is transmitted by being around people who are HIV-positive. 

Busted: HIV cannot be transmitted by being around infected people.

A casual contact with an HIV-infected person is perfectly safe. HIV cannot survive outside open surfaces; hence, sharing a living space, bathroom, food and utensils will not spread the virus. So much so that even the saliva of the infected person does not put you at risk. However, sharing of razors and toothbrushes that could be in direct contact with the infected person's blood might put you at risk. It is important to remember that HIV can be contracted only through infected bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk and nothing else.

Myth 2: Mosquitoes can spread HIV.

Busted: HIV cannot be spread by mosquitoes or other insects.

Although mosquitoes are carriers for serious diseases like dengue and malaria, they do not transmit HIV. The nature of HIV is such that it binds with the T cells in the human body and starts to replicate. Mosquitoes do not have T cells, hence the virus is unable to replicate itself. This causes the HIV to break down completely, get digested and destroyed in the mosquito's gut. Therefore, bites from mosquitoes or insects cannot infect you with HIV.

Myth 3: An HIV-positive person can be cured. 

Busted: HIV cannot be cured. 

Until now, medical research has not come up any medication or treatment option that can completely cure HIV. However, with advanced studies and technologies, the disease can be managed, and the quality of life of HIV-positive people can be improved.

"As HIV cannot be cured, early diagnosis is vital. Also, starting antiviral drugs early on will improve the quality and the quantity of life thereafter," says Dr Anand N, Medical Officer, Shelter Trust Home.

Myth 4: With HIV, your life is over.

Busted: Your life is far from over.

Until a few decades ago, not much medical research was carried out on this disease. Also, because of lack of awareness about the disease and the social stigma associated with it, not many would come forward for treatment. Therefore, the death rate was high. But now, although there is no treatment to cure the disease, there is medication to help those affected lead a longer and healthier life. The antiretroviral treatments can, especially, slow down the damage caused by the HIV infection.

"Antiretroviral therapy is the use of a combination of antiviral drugs for the treatment of HIV infection. Usually, a combination of 3 to 4 drugs is used to treat HIV. Though these drugs won't cure the disease, they control it to such an extent that a person infected with HIV can lead a normal life without any complications," says Dr Anand.

Myth 5: HIV cannot be transmitted through inking tattoos.

Busted: HIV can be transmitted via needles used for inking the tattoos. 

Although tattoos and body piercings are a popular trend among teenagers, many fail to check if the equipment used is sanitised and brand new. There are some risks involved and as a parent, you cannot ignore any potential threat of HIV infection to your teen. Ensure your child is aware and understands the possible consequences, and takes the right precautions accordingly if he is thinking of getting a tattoo inked on his skin.

"Reusing the same needle or ink used for a client with HIV increases the possibility of transmission of any infection, not only HIV but also other blood-borne infections like Hepatitis B and C," states Dr Anand.

Myth 6: HIV-infected women cannot bear children.

Busted: HIV-infected women can bear children. 

With advanced treatments and appropriate medical support, the risk of mothers passing on the virus to their unborn children is very rare now. When planning your pregnancy, seek professional advice from a doctor, and discuss your situation and explore options with her. Further, many fertility clinics are open to serodiscordant couples (one person has HIV and the other doesn’t) and help women with a safe pregnancy.

"An HIV-infected woman can not only bear a child but also a healthy HIV-negative child. After delivery, the child should undergo treatment with antiretroviral drugs for six weeks which increases the possibility of the child being safe from HIV," adds Dr Anand. 

Prevention is always better than cure. Educate yourself and your child about HIV and AIDS; understand why and how the disease is transmitted. Let your child grow up without discriminating or avoiding HIV-infected people. They are just like anybody else. Let us show them our compassion and empathy, and accept them as members of our society.

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