In the 1980s when the first cases of AIDS started appearing across the world, infectious disease experts were faced with an unknown virus. Because so little was known about HIV and AIDS, some stubborn myths took hold among the public. A lot has changed since then, and you may not realize exactly how much. To make sure you have accurate information about this incredibly important topic, review these six myths, and the actual facts of the matter.
Myth: HIV is AIDS and AIDS is HIV
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus, whereas AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) describes a health condition that can develop after many years if HIV is left untreated. HIV doesn’t progress to AIDS until the immune system becomes compromised, at which point the person with AIDS becomes vulnerable to certain infections and forms of cancer. With medical treatment it’s very possible to live with HIV without ever developing AIDS.
Myth: HIV Can Be Passed Through Skin Contact
HIV is not transmitted via toilets, sharing drinks, food, coughing, saliva, kissing, or sweat according to the CDC.
Myth: HIV is Only Passed During Ejaculation
Pre-ejaculation, often referred to as pre-cum, contains the virus. Pre-ejaculate is released before ejaculation, sometimes much sooner. Always use condoms before intimate contact occurs.
Myth: It’s Not Safe to Have Intimate Contact With Someone With HIV
The combination of condoms and the medication PrEP provides very good protection against contracting HIV from a sexual partner. And if an HIV positive person is taking antiretroviral medication and the virus is “undetectable” in his or her body, then the virus cannot be spread to a partner. However, even if your partner is undetectable it is still recommended that you take PrEP as an additional precaution.
Myth: You Don’t Need HIV Testing Unless You Know You’re At-Risk
If you’re sexually active and don’t know for certain that your partners are HIV-negative you should be tested regularly for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections — at least once a year, and more often if you are at high risk. According to the CDC about 1 in 7 people in the US who are HIV positive don’t know their status, which underlines the importance of regular testing. You can get a status check from home with an STI Home Test Kit.
Myth: HIV is a Death Sentence
Although there’s still no cure for HIV, modern medications allow people to live long and healthy lives with HIV, without passing the virus to sexual partners. While researchers continue to look for a cure for the virus, we can be grateful for the life-saving advances that have been made in HIV prevention and treatment.
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