For AIDS Awareness Month: HIV/AIDS Myths Busted
Simply because you do not personally know someone living with HIV/AIDS, you may believe that the deadly virus is nearly extinct. But the fact that you aren’t aware of someone having the disease doesn’t mean that nobody in your immediate or larger circle doesn’t have it. There is such a hush-hush attitude towards the disease. We push it to the darkest corners of the human experience. We don’t talk about it. We treat it as a deeply taboo disease that only irresponsible and “dirty” individuals contract. But that simply is not true. If you have ever made a sexual decision you’re less than proud of—like having unprotected sex with a stranger or even a partner who hadn’t presented recent test results—then you could have been a statistic. Yes, you. Someone who is—presumably—responsible and clean. The statistics, by the way, are alarming. Around 37 million people have HIV/AIDS, and nearly two million of those were infected in the past year. It’s far too dangerous and rampant an illness for there to be any misunderstandings around it. For AIDS Awareness Month, here are myths about the disease that need to be busted.
An early death is guaranteed
For many individuals, hearing that they have HIV/AIDS feels like an early death sentence. Since society keeps cases of the disease so quiet, we often only hear about it when someone dies from it, leading us to believe everyone who is diagnosed passes away early.
Infected individuals can live a normal lifespan
If diagnosed early and treated properly, a person with HIV/AIDS can enjoy a normal lifespan. The diagnosis doesn’t always equal a shortened lifespan, but it’s important that those who are at risk get tested regularly and seek treatment right away if necessary.
It only exists in the gay community
There is a widespread idea that HIV/AIDS only exists within the gay community. Many of the famous plays and books about the disease have focused on this group, and HIV/AIDS drugs are predominantly targeted towards this demographic.
Everyone is at risk
While homosexual individuals can be most at risk, heterosexual women—particularly African American ones—are another high-risk group. But ultimately anyone who is sexually active and doesn’t practice responsible habits is at risk.
Condoms prevent the transmission
Those infected with HIV/AIDS can believe that, so long as they use condoms, it is perfectly safe for them to have sex with uninfected individuals. In fact, they can believe they don’t even need to tell partners.
Condoms are not 100 percent effective
Condoms are not 100 percent effective and should they fail for an HIV-positive individual, the risks they put their partner at can be fatal. Furthermore, any infected individual is always responsible to inform partners.
My recent test was negative so I’m clean
If you recently had a sexual encounter about which you’re worried, you’re responsible to get tested. Should those test results come back negative, you may believe you’re in the clear.
Antibodies build slowly
It takes your body about three months to develop enough HIV antibodies to be detected in a test. If you are worried you are at risk, use protection—you’re in no position to quit condoms— and wait three months from the sexual encounter to get tested.
Proper meds usage means success
If you are infected and taking medication properly, you may feel that your life is back on track, and you don’t need to worry about complications.
Not everyone responds the same
Unfortunately, certain habits increase one’s chances of HIV/AIDS-related infections and complications. Smoking and injecting drugs can put one at risk of these complications.
I feel fine and can delay meds
Some individuals don’t develop symptoms for up to ten years, leaving them to believe that they do not need medication—or at least do not need it until they begin to feel ill.
Delaying meds harms the immune system
Just because you don’t feel sick doesn’t mean the illness isn’t weakening your immune system. The longer you wait to start medication, the higher chances you have of developing complications.
I’ll just use PrEP pills and be fine
PrEP pills or HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis are pills uninfected individuals can take, that reduce the chances of contracting HIV/AIDS by over 90 percent. Some people believe that, so long as they take their pills regularly, they don’t need to use condoms.
Not everyone responds the same
Unfortunately, not everyone responds the same to PrEP pills, and certain lifestyle habits can reduce their effectiveness. If you are an uninfected partner sleeping with an infected one, always use condoms.
There will be a cure soon
For years, doctors have been working on a cure for HIV/AIDS. There have been moments of hope, leading many to believe that, even if they are infected, they can depend on a cure soon.
The road has been bumpy
While there has been a tremendous amount of money dedicated to finding a cure for AIDS/HIV, the road has been a bumpy one. Doctors have suffered many close calls and failures. The road to a cure has not been a steady, upward trajectory so much as a roller coaster. Everyone who is at risk should use protection and not depend on an impending cure.