The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a very serious virus that cannot be cured, while acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the final stage of HIV. There are many myths about HIV and AIDS that have been spread around over the years. The following are some of the most common myths along with the truth about these two conditions.
This is a common misunderstanding. HIV is actually a virus that can lead to AIDS. Therefore, not all people with HIV have AIDS. In fact, many people live with HIV for many years without having AIDS.
Because people hear that HIV is spread by bodily fluids, they assume that kissing is one of the ways that the virus can be transmitted. Fortunately, saliva is not one of the bodily fluids that can carry the virus (only semen, vaginal secretions, blood and breast milk can).Likewise, you can’t get HIV from other forms of casual contact like sharing food utensils, sharing bedding, using the toilet or swimming in public pools. (For information on oral sex and sexually transmitted diseases, see Oral Sex And STDs: Transmission Without Intercourse.)
HIV is associated with some symptoms. For example, people normally display flu-like symptoms within a month or two of becoming infected. These symptoms are often very mild and often go unnoticed or are assumed to be symptoms of another condition. Unfortunately, the period immediately following initial infection is when a person is most likely to spread the virus to another person. In addition, there are many people who experience no symptoms of the virus for up to 10 years after infection.
Two individuals infected with HIV should still use a condom when having sex due to the fact that there are different strains of the virus. Getting multiple strains of HIV, especially those which are drug-resistant, can make difficult for treatments to work.
Women with HIV are faced with the risk of transmission to their child when they become pregnant. In fact, HIV can be spread during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. However, if a woman is aware of her HIV status early in the pregnancy and it is treated, the risk of the baby being infected with the virus is only about 2 percent. Without treatment, the risk is about 25 percent. Women with HIV should not breastfeed their children to reduce the risk of transmission.
Some people are under the impression that women can’t give HIV to a man when having vaginal or anal sex. Women can pass HIV to a man through sexual contact, but the risk for woman-to-man transmission is much lower than man-to-woman transmission in these circumstances. The reason is that when an infected man has sex with a woman, the semen can remain inside her body for several days, increasing her risk of infection. However, it’s still important to use protection when an infected woman has sex with a man since the virus could enter the body through the penis while it is in a woman’s vagina or rectum.
Many people with HIV feel perfectly fine even though they are infected with the disease. However, even those who feel great should begin drug therapy for HIV as soon as possible to help protect their immune system. Otherwise, the body will be much weaker by the time an infected person does get sick. The medications used in HIV drug therapy help reduce the amount of the virus in your blood while also reducing the risk of passing HIV onto another person.
It’s true that the majority of people with HIV and AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa. However, it is still a problem in other areas of the world, especially those where there are issues of poverty, conflict or inequality. In addition, tourism, migration and business travel can transport HIV across national boundaries.
Although unprotected sex and drug use are the main methods of transmission, the problem is not as simple as it appears. HIV is often spread due to lack of education regarding prevention along with problems with gender or racial inequality, economic insecurity or armed conflict.
Researchers are constantly working towards a vaccine or a cure for HIV and AIDS. Unfortunately, none have been successful thus far and most experts agree that an effective HIV or AIDS vaccine is many years away.
The CDC recommends that everyone get tested for HIV at least once. Knowing your HIV or AIDS status is one of the best ways of preventing the spread of the virus to others and to protect your health. Ask your doctor or contact a local health clinic for information about getting tested for HIV.