HIV is widely misunderstood. Hollywood, stereotypes, and fear throw the virus into the line of fire for myths and assumptions that have no base and stir an unneeded fear of HIV testing. National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day occurs on Sept. 27th and is used to call attention the challenges of HIV testing, prevention, and treatment.
Here are seven of the top myths still believed about the virus and the truth behind symptoms and treatment.
1. HIV Diagnosis is Deadly
Proper treatment plans for HIV allow patients to live a normal life span. Your primary doctor can help explain your treatment options, but the most important factor is this diagnosis is not a death sentence.
2. HIV is Physically Obvious
You cannot tell by looking at a person if they have HIV. In fact, symptoms of the virus mirror that of a cold or the flu in that the patients have a fever, general weakness, and fatigue. The only way to know of the symptoms are a sign of the virus is to go through HIV testing.
3. Straight People Can’t Contract HIV
While it is true that the majority of HIV cases are found within men who have intercourse with men, it is absolutely possible for heterosexual individuals to contract HIV. Roughly 70 percent of reported HIV cases are found in homosexual or bisexual men. Heterosexuals account for 24 percent of HIV cases, with 30 percent of those patients being female.
4. HIV Positive People Can’t Have Healthy Babies
When a woman with HIV takes her medications as instructed by her primary physician throughout the entire pregnancy and continues medicine for her baby for 4 to 6 weeks after birth, the likelihood of transmitting HIV to the baby can be as low as 1% or less.
5. HIV Always Leads to AIDS
HIV attacks the immune system and can lead to the onset of infections because of a weakened immune response. While HIV is the infection that causes AIDS, it doesn’t mean that every positive result from HIV testing will lead to AIDS.
6. HIV isn’t Serious
There are medical treatments that can offer an HIV-positive individual a rewarding, full life, but the virus is not something to take lightly. Without treatment, HIV can lead to severe health complications, making HIV testing so crucial to fighting the spread of the virus.
7. The PrEP Pill is the Same As Safe Sex
PrEP is designed to be used in combination with safe sex practices, like using a condom. Although the PrEP HiV pill has shown high effectiveness, listening to your primary doctor’s advice to continuing regular HIV testing and having safe sex.