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World AIDS day: Myths and True Facts

By FLcs 03 Dec 2020

Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day is the first ever global health day. The purpose of it is to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with the disease and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illness.

Before we get into fast facts that break down the myths, let’s look at why is this day important and what can we do to get involved.

Alone in the UK, we have over 103,800 people living with HIV. Worldwide, the numbers are heart breaking – there are estimated 38 million people who are living with the disease. Since 1984 when the virus was identified (that’s only 36 years ago!), more than 35 million people have died from HIV or AIDS. This leads to more serious issues – people who contract the virus are exposed to discrimination, and stigma about the illness and fail to protect themselves.

So, what can I do?

  • Show your solidarity

You can wear a HIV awareness red ribbon that you can order from the World AIDS Day website (https://www.worldaidsday.org/about/) or get one from Morrisons.

  • Get tested

That’s the only way to find out if you have HIV. The tests are free and confidential and are available from NHS sexual health clinics, charity testing services, many GP surgeries, pharmacies or online for self-testing at home (if you’re not comfortable going to get tested). Remember, that if you find out you have HIV on time, you can start a treatment early and live a full and healthy life.

  • Donate to National AIDS Trust

You can do this anytime of the year. Follow the link for more information:

https://www.worldaidsday.org/about/

 

10 Myths and True Facts

1. MYTH: You can get HIV just by being around HIV-positive individuals in your daily life.

FACT: HIV is transmitted when infected material (blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk) comes in direct contact with a mucous membrane (mouth, vagina, anus), damaged tissue, or is injected directly into the bloodstream.

It CAN’T be spread by kissing, hugging, sharing food or drinks, toilet seats, touching, sneezing or coughing.

This myth is one of the many reasons why people living with HIV are facing discrimination and living with the stigma concerning the disease.

 2. MYTH: HIV can be cured.

FACT: There is no cure for HIV. With treatment, it is possible for HIV-positive individuals to control the virus and live long and healthy lives.

It is possible, however, to lower the amount of HIV to “undetectable levels” but the virus is still present.

 3. MYTH: HIV is a gay man’s disease.

FACT: HIV does not discriminate against age, race, gender, sexual orientation, class or any other identifier.

It’s true that gay/bisexual men are impacted by HIV at higher level than heterosexual individuals, however heterosexual women, in particular women of colour, have one of the largest-growing rates of infection in the US. To believe that HIV only impacts gay men, is ignoring the truth and putting you and others at risk.

 4. MYTH: It is the HIV-positive individual’s responsibility to initiate safe sex.

FACT: You are in charge of your own sexual health and it is your responsibility, regardless whether you have the virus or not, to set boundaries, identify limits, and implement the safe sex strategies (e.g. condom use, PrEP, testing etc)

5. MYTH: I’m married/in a monogamous relationship so there’s no point in getting tested or using protection.

FACT: Knowing your status and your partner’s status on an ongoing basis is the only way to know whether you are at risk of contracting HIV or other STIs.

6. MYTH: Having sex with HIV-positive individual means you will contract HIV.

FACT: Having sex with someone who is HIV-positive while you are negative and staying negative is completely possible. By learning the facts about transmission, risk factors, and preventative measures, individuals with mixed HIV statuses can have healthy sexual lives.

7. MYTH: I can tell if someone is HIV-positive.

FACT: You can’t. 1 in 7 people living with HIV don’t even know they are infected.

 There is no way to look at a person and be able to determine whether they have HIV or another STD. Sometimes, when people say this, they are stating that someone’s behaviours can reveal their HIV status. This is also false.

8. MYTH: I’m too old to worry about something like HIV.

FACT: Age doesn’t stop people from having sex and if you are having sex, then you are at some risk of contracting HIV or other STDs.

9. MYTH: Being HIV-positive means I can never have children.

FACT: It is still possible for you to have children while living with HIV.

 HIV is spread via unprotected sex but there are ways to prevent the transmission. There are different options to consider for conception depending on which partner is positive.

10. MYTH: PrEP is an excuse for people to have unprotected sex.

FACT: PrEP is an excellent tool to prevent HIV infection and it is something someone can elect for different reasons, e.g. HIV-positive person can prevent transmission to HIV-negative partner in the relationship.

 To seek help or if you want to know more information, follow the useful links below:

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Rusne Ramonaite

3rd December 2020

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