- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.1 million people in the United States are living with human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.
- Despite the number, misinformation continues to abound about HIV and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
- Myths range from how you can contract HIV to how you can treat it.
- It’s important to educate yourself about HIV to dispel common myths that marginalize people living with the disease.
As of 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1.1 million people in the United States are living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a disease that weakens a person’s immune system and makes them more susceptible to other diseases and infections.
Despite the number of people who have the disease today, misinformation about HIV and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) continues to abound. Fortunately, plenty of reputable sources offer accessible information about HIV and AIDS, while events like World AIDS Day, which falls on December 1 every year, promote awareness and research.
Read on to learn about the most common HIV and AIDS myths and why you shouldn’t believe them.
Myth: HIV and AIDS are the same thing
HIV happens in three different stages, with AIDS only coming into play if a person doesn’t receive HIV treatment. It can take 10 years for an untreated person with HIV to get AIDS.
Before that, HIV begins in stage 1, which occurs two to four weeks after a person is infected with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During stage 1, a person could either experience flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, chills, and a fever, or they can experience no symptoms at all.
Next comes stage 2, also known as asymptomatic HIV infection, according to the CDC. During this time, HIV is active in a person’s body, but the virus reproduces slowly, meaning a person might not feel any symptoms for some time. Stage 2 can last for a decade or even several decades for a person who has been diagnosed and is taking medication.
HIV medication can help a person stay virally suppressed, meaning they have a low chance of spreading HIV to others and their own health stays intact, according to the CDC. If a person is not taking HIV medication, however, HIV can progress to stage 3, or AIDS.
In stage 3, a person’s immune system is more compromised and they have a greater chance of getting opportunistic illnesses, which are infections or cancers that become very severe due to a person’s extremely weakened immune system, according to the University of California San Francisco Center for HIV Information.
Myth: You can get HIV from donating blood
According to the CDC, contracting HIV via blood donations was common when the disease was first being researched. Nowadays, however, this is extremely rare thanks to rigorous pre-donation testing and restrictions.
These days, you are most likely to contract HIV one of two ways. The first is by having unprotected anal or vaginal sex with someone who has HIV. The second is by drug equipment — needles, syringes, rinse water — with someone who has HIV.
Myth: It’s easy to tell if you have HIV
Because people’s symptoms can vary throughout the stages of HIV, getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV, according to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
For example, one symptom of stage 1 HIV is flu-like symptoms — think fever, chills, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue. But some people who have contracted HIV won’t feel ill until later stages of the disease.
What’s more, these symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have HIV and could be something else entirely. If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV through sex or blood, you should see your healthcare provider who can administer a test and verify the results. Other testing options include at-home testing kits, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation noted.
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Source: Business insider