We think we know everything about HIV. But do we? Here, TV’s very gorgeous Dr Ranj Singh shatters some myths surrounding HIV and AIDS!
1) HIV and AIDS are two different things. HIV is the virus that infects people and attacks the immune system. AIDS is the condition that results when the immune system eventually fails and the person is then susceptible to life-threatening infections.
2) HIV is not a ‘gay disease’. It doesn’t discriminate. Worldwide, there are more heterosexual people with HIV, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa.
3) HIV cannot be spread by touching, kissing, spitting or sharing a toothbrush. The risks of getting HIV by these means is negligible. HIV is mainly transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected person, or sharing needles or injecting equipment with a HIV-positive person.
4) Being circumcised does not prevent you getting or passing on HIV. There is research to show that it can reduce the chances of transmission, but it is no guarantee. Condoms are still the best way to protect yourself and your partner.
5) It is possible to get HIV from oral sex, but the risk is very low. However, if bodily fluids come into contact with a cut/sore in the mouth, then the chances are increased.
6) You can’t always tell if you have HIV. Man people who are HIV-positive don’t even know it. The only way to tell is to have a test, which is why it is so important to get tested regularly.
7) You can get an HIV test done in minutes. It used to take much longer, but modern techniques mean you can get provisional results very quickly.
8) HIV is no longer a death sentence. With proper treatment and monitoring, people with HIV can have near-normal lifespans.
9) If you have HIV and want to have children, there is no guarantee that they will get it. There are lots of treatments offered to individuals or couples affected by HIV who want to have a baby. If a pregnant woman is HIV positive, with proper therapy and care, the chances of passing the virus on to the baby is less than 1%.
10) Your employer cannot ask if you have HIV. Your result is confidential. There has been a great deal of work around protecting people with HIV from discrimination at work. An employer cannot ask you about your HIV status before giving you a job, and then only in certain circumstances when it is relevant to the role (e.g. healthcare workers).