There are lots of myths out there when it comes to HIV and AIDs.
In honour of World AIDs Day this December, we at LetsGetChecked want to set the record straight when it comes to HIV and AIDs.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, it is the virus that causes AIDs, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
Myths About HIV & AIDs
Here are some of the most common myths when it comes to HIV and AIDS:
- 1. You can get HIV from ordinary contact
- 2. You can prevent HIV infection by washing after sex
- 3. You can pick up HIV from objects or animals
- 4. You can prevent HIV infection by pulling out
- 5. The symptoms of HIV are hard to miss
- 6. You will definitely get HIV if you have sex with someone who has HIV
- 7. There is no risk of HIV if you are in a relationship
- 8. You can’t get HIV from using an old needle
- 9. If you get HIV, you will definitely get AIDs
Let’s set the record straight and give you the facts when it comes to HIV and AIDS.
False. You cannot contract HIV via casual contact. Ordinary contact includes things like hugging, kissing and shaking hands. HIV infection occurs when infected bodily fluids are passed from an infected person via blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk.
False. You cannot prevent HIV infection by washing after sex. If infected bodily fluids have been exchanged, washing after sex will not prevent HIV infection. The only way to prevent HIV infection is the use of condoms (including female condoms) and a drug called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).
False. In the same way that you cannot pick up HIV via casual contact, you cannot pick up HIV from inanimate objects or animals. HIV infection does not live on toilets seats, kitchen tables, food or blankets. HIV does not spread through the air, water or insect bites.
False. You can not prevent HIV infection by pulling out before ejaculation during sex. Withdrawal before ejaculation could result in infection because pre-ejaculate may be infected with the virus.
True and false. Each individual’s experience with HIV is different. Some people will experience symptoms in the early stages of infection, others may not experience symptoms for up to 10 years after infection. (Learn more about the symptoms of HIV.)
False. You will only get HIV if you come into contact with infected blood, semen, and the pre-seminal fluid of someone who has a detectable load. A detectable load means that there are detectable levels of HIV in a patient’s blood. A detectable load of someone who is living with HIV will depend on the stage of the condition and treatment. If you use condoms and PrEP, you will not get HIV from someone who is carrying the virus.
False. Even if you are only having sex with one person, there is still a risk of HIV infection, unless, you have both been tested and have gotten the all clear. Some people may be unaware of their status, whereas other people may be ashamed of theirs and convince themselves that if they insist on condoms, they won’t need to discuss their status. The only way to know is to take a HIV test.
False. HIV can survive on needles and syringes for up to six weeks which is why refuse workers are urged to be aware of the risk during waste disposal, strict guidelines need to be followed in clinical environments (needle-stick injuries) and recreational drug users need to be warned about the risks of sharing needles.
False. Thanks to treatment, most people with HIV who have access to treatment do not develop AIDS. Untreated, HIV typically turns into AIDS after about 10 years.
The good news is that HIV is now a very treatable condition with a good prognosis. Many people who are living with HIV, can live a completely normal life.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically reviewed by Gwen Murphy PhD, MPH