In light of the offensive, homophobic comments made by popular rapper DaBaby recently, it’s an excellent time to learn the most basic facts and common myths about HIV and AIDS. Unfortunately, even as scientists have learned more about the virus over the decades, common misconceptions still leave most people with many questions about HIV and AIDS. So let’s start with the basics.
What are HIV and AIDS?
Human immunodeficiency virus or HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. When left untreated, HIV can lead to the disease AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. HIV can be a deadly as it leaves the body vulnerable to other infections and diseases.
Now that we’ve covered what HIV and AIDS are, let's debunk some common misconceptions.
“HIV is a death sentence.”
At the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, receiving a diagnosis of HIV was like receiving a death sentence because the death rates were so high. But now, thanks to advanced medicine, people with HIV or AIDS can live long, healthy lives. In addition, HIV medicine can even prevent transmission of the virus.
Fact: HIV-positive people can live long, healthy lives through the help of HIV medicine.
“I can get HIV just by people around HIV-positive people.”
HIV cannot be transmitted through the air, hugging, kissing, or even by sharing the same eating utensils. Breathing the same air as HIV-positive people won’t expose you to the virus, nor is the virus spread by touch, sweat, saliva, tears, or pee.
Fact: You can only get HIV through direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone with HIV. Infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk can transmit the virus.
“If I’m living with HIV, I can’t have kids.”
Having safe sex is a must if you’re living with HIV, but there still might be a way for you to have kids, too. If you consult with your doctor, they can help you lower the risk of infecting your partner during conception, and they can prescribe you HIV medicine for you and your baby if you’re pregnant. Today, the chances of a mother passing down HIV to their baby is less than 1% in United States.
Fact: There are many ways to lessen the risk of passing down HIV to your unborn baby and partner if you consult the help of your doctor.
“I could tell if my partner or I were HIV-positive.”
The reality is people can have HIV and go years without experiencing symptoms. That’s why the only way to be sure is for you and your partner to get tested.
Fact: You can’t rely on symptoms to signal whether you’re HIV-positive. You should get tested.
Get tested annually for HIV even if married or committed
If you are not in a committed relationship, get tested every three 3 months
If negative and your partner is positive, you can take PrEP
If you have feel you have been exposed to the virus in the past 72hours PEP may help.
You need prescription for both PEP and PrEP.
There’s still a lot to learn about the virus, but the breakthroughs scientists have made thus far are a beacon of hope for many. Forty years ago, receiving a diagnosis of HIV was some of the worst news a person could receive. But now, persons living with HIV-positive live long, fulfilling lives. In some states HIV has been declared a chronic illness due to many living long, focus should now be given to managing comorbidities.