Since the 1980s, humanity has been held hostage by the threat of that dreaded term – HIV. Almost everyone who has heard of it has known to dread it, but very few actually know much about it. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and its associated disease – Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) have not only invoked terror in our minds, but have also been responsible for perpetrating numerous baseless myths. As a result, even as the threat of HIV and AIDS continues to rise, so does the stigma that surrounds it. It is time we separate myth from reality and ensure that we have a better and more holistic understanding of the disease.
There is widespread paranoia that one can contract HIV merely by getting oneself tested for the same. This belief is a falsehood and is based on the assumption that the clinic where the test is conducted reuses its needles. This is not only illegal but no longer practised in any decent clinic or medical facility across the country. The chances of you being at risk of HIV because the needle used for your blood test was the same as the one used on an HIV positive patient are all but zero, especially if you get the test done in a reputed clinic.
Another very common misconception about HIV is that if a person tests positive for HIV, he/she will inevitably have AIDS. This was only true in the early years, when a person tested positively for HIV would inevitably die of AIDS. Today, things have changed quite a lot. Even if a person is tested positive for HIV, regular medication and changes in lifestyle can keep the virus under check and prevent it from turning to AIDS. Thus, AIDS can be kept at bay for months, years or in some cases even the whole lifetime.
There are also a series of myths surrounding what causes AIDS. Often the causes are attributed to carriers such as mosquitoes. While it is true that mosquitoes can transmit illnesses such as malaria, there are no recorded cases of the AIDS virus transmitted through their bite. Misinformation regarding the causes has also perpetrated other similar legends about how HIV/AIDS can spread through contact, by touching doorknobs or using toilet seats in public places. There is enough research today to suggest that all of these are mere legends.
One of the slightly more toxic myths about AIDS involves the spread of AIDS through only certain forms of sexual behaviour. Here it is important to note that unprotected sexual encounters of any kind, be it oral, vaginal or anal can lead to the transmission of the virus, especially if one of the parties has any kind of open wounds or fissures in the said area. Even if both the sexual partners have already been tested HIV positive, it is important that they exercise due caution and take adequate precaution.
One of the most tragic myths about AIDS is that it can be cured. Unfortunately, even with all the advances of modern medicine, there has as yet been no cure found for this nightmare. And while it is true that if the HIV infection is diagnosed early and treatment is begun for the same, its progression to AIDS can be substantially delayed and, in some cases, even halted, a definitive solution remains elusive. This has also led to another equally tragic myth that an individual who is undergoing treatment/medication for HIV is not liable to transmit the disease. This is not true at all and can result in dire consequences.
All in all, HIV/AIDS is and continues to be a very serious problem and even as the world of modern medicine struggles to find a solution to it, one must take every precaution against it.