A study carried out in 2016, by UNAIDS, an organisation under the United Nations dedicated to protecting those suffering from AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) has found that 36.7 million global citizens have been infected by AIDS.
It has been more than 30 years since HIV/AIDS was first detected.
Since then, there has been much improvement in the detection and treatment of the disease.
NUMEROUS MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HIV/AIDS
According to The Star, although most individuals state they understand the basics of what HIV and AIDS are, there are untrue statements that have been spreading around regarding the condition.
This leads to a series of false facts that spreads within the community.
It seems to be the right time that we once again debunk some of the more common myths about the disease.
This article will discuss some common myths about HIV/ AIDS and disprove them.
- HIV IS THE SAME AS AIDS
One common myth is that anyone infected by HIV also has AIDS.
This is a common misconception since society is having a lot of difficulty to differentiate between the two conditions.
It is actually a simple concept – AIDS is the result of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) damaging one’s immune system to the extent the individual is left defenceless to infections and illnesses such as fevers, mouth sores (ulser mulut), lung diseases, yeast infection (jangkitan kulat), and some cancers.
In short, HIV is the cause, and AIDS is the disease that may arise if it is left untreated. Those with HIV don’t necessarily have AIDS, but those with AIDS definitely have HIV.
- THOSE WITH HIV LOOK VERY SICK
Society imagines those who have HIV look sickly and ill, this is also a common misconception.
This is not true, as most of the time, those who are HIV-positive look as healthy as other individuals.
Even early symptoms of AIDS look like typical illnesses, such as sore throats, increased body temperature and muscle aches.
- TOUCHING SPREADS HIV
Many think that AIDS can easily be spread by touching someone who has AIDS, for example, by drinking from the same bottle, sharing utensils, and using the same toilet.
Some even think that touching a diagnosed person will spread the virus to them.
This makes even the act of shaking the person’s hand seem like a scary task.
This false rumour about the virus has caused individuals to be scared to interact with those who have HIV.
In reality, HIV cannot be spread through touch, saliva or sweat, and thinking so looks down those with the condition.
Most commonly the virus is sexually transmitted, spreading through bodily fluids like semen, vaginal discharge and blood.
- THOSE WITH HIV WILL DIE AT A YOUNG AGE
Another myth that we often believe to be true is being infected with HIV will ultimately lead to an early death for those diagnosed when they are young.
Yes, having HIV is a risk to your health, but it is not a death sentence.
Compared to thirty years ago when HIV was just discovered, we now have the advantage of top-notch medical technology and the best medicines are easily available to prevent the worsening of a HIV-positive person’s health.
As long as these individuals maintain ideal lifestyles, they can live up to 70 years of age, the regular life expectancy for most Malaysians.
- HIV ONLY AFFECTS YOUNG PEOPLE
It is wrong to think that the elderly do not get infected by HIV.
Believe it or not, UNAIDS suggests that approximately 4.2 million elderly adults above the age of 50 worldwide has the disease.
The older age group is often skipped when it comes to HIV prevention programmes.
This is bad as many of them do not know or have limited knowledge regarding the disease and almost half do not realise that they have been infected by the virus.
- HIV ONLY AFFECTS HOMOSEXUALS
In the early 1980s, it seemed that HIV mainly affected men who engage in homosexual sex.
This caused a renowned false impression regarding the condition, which is that only those who perform heterosexual intercourse are safe from getting AIDS.
Nowadays, almost 1/4 of those living with AIDS are heterosexual men and women, most likely those who did not practice safe sex and HIV prevention due to the “only homosexuals get AIDS” stigma.
- A PREGNANT WOMAN WITH HIV WILL GIVE BIRTH TO A HIV-POSITIVE BABY
Another misconception is that those born of HIV-positive parent (or parents) will automatically have the virus.
The truth is, as long as the mother practices the dos and don’ts of pregnancy and sticks to the prescribed medications, the chances of giving birth to a HIV-positive baby are minimal.
- IT IS OKAY TO HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX IF BOTH PARTNERS ARE HIV-POSITIVE
Another myth to be exposed is that it is seems okay for both partners who are HIV-positive to have unprotected sex.
Although there is no risk of the other person getting the viral load, it will result in higher chances of catching other forms of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) like hepatitis B and syphilis.
Since HIV destroys CD4 cells that functions to protect individuals against those diseases, it is best for HIV positive individuals to practice safe sex to protect themselves from STDs.
- YOU WON’T GET HIV IF YOU DON’T HAVE SEX
Many people assume that if they do not engage in any sexual acts at all are safe from ever getting infected by HIV/AIDS.
This is not true, as many people get infected through drug abuse, or more accurately, through sharing needles with HIV-positives when injecting the drugs into themselves.
Similarly, filthy needles at tattoo parlours can cause one to have HIV.
Although most myths that surround the HIV-positive community are false, some beliefs that are very much true.
Mainly the conception that the world’s minor ethnicities, mostly those residing in Sub-Saharan Africa, are the ones that are most burdened by AIDS in the world.
Even in the US, the African-American community remains the most heavily affected by AIDS.
This happens because of socioeconomic issues, such as limited access to health facilities and education.
It is not easy to solve the HIV/AIDS pandemic, as there is no known, ultimate cure for it yet.
Society’s presumptions on the matter contribute in slowing down the progress of AIDS prevention in nowadays.
So how do we improve the condition?
The public should research on the matter to know what is true and untrue.
This is crucial to hopefully decrease the number of victims of HIV/AIDS, as ignorance will surely lead to many more misconceptions about the condition.