Let’s break the stigma: 10 misconceptions about HIV and why they’re wrong

HIV awareness has made a lot of progress in the past few years, but there’s still so much to do. According to the DOH, the Philippines currently has a low rate of infection. The problem is that it’s also one of the fastest-growing, globally.

One of the reasons this happens is because people know so little about HIV. And what they do know is usually based on misinformation. So let’s correct this and get some facts straight. 

(LOOK: Priest Hugs Man Holding a Sign That Says He’s HIV Positive)

Here are 10 common misconceptions about HIV, and the facts that prove these myths are wrong.

10. Straight people can’t get HIV 

Fact: While the risk may be higher for sexually active homosexuals, it doesn’t exempt all others from contracting HIV. Whether you are straight or gay, a man or woman, HIV remains a reality for all. Ignoring this leads to riskier behavior like heterosexual couples believing they have no need for condoms.

9. You can “catch” HIV the same way you catch the common flu or other viruses

Fact: HIV can only be passed on through infected bodily fluids. Touching, sharing things like combs, or even being in the general vicinity of an HIV-positive individual will not infect you. This kind of thinking has led to the ostracisation of so many people.   

8. HIV is an infection to eliminate homosexuals 

Fact: While it can be genetically passed down, there is no conspiracy theory to eliminate the homosexuals of this world. A belief like this only furthers the stigma, not just against HIV-positive individuals, but against homosexuals in general. It propagates the belief that there is something so inherently wrong with them, they have to be “cleansed”.

7. HIV is a death sentence

Fact: The first step is in understanding that HIV is still just an infection. There are treatments and procedures to keep it at bay, like taking a certain pill every day. Biting into this defeatist logic is the death sentence itself. Refusing to look for treatment, or believing everything is lost will lead it to be so. 

6. Children aren’t an option if you’re HIV-positive 

Fact: There are so many precautions that a pregnant, HIV-positive woman can do to ensure the safety of her unborn child. Working closely with doctors, taking the necessary medicine, and opting for a C-section are just a few of many options. Likewise, an HIV-positive man can take special medication. Alternatives exist — a healthy and happy family life is still a possibility. 

5. You don’t need a condom if you both have HIV

Fact: Different strains to HIV exist. This means that the infection an individual has may not be the same as their partner’s infection. So the risk is contracting another strain of HIV and compounding it. This misconception has to be altered as people tend to be risky operating under it.

4. An HIV negative person can’t be in a relationship with someone who is HIV positive 

Fact: A number of prevention methods exist for couples with differing HIV statuses. One is simply HIV treatment which, when achieves an undetectable viral load, decreases the chance of transmission at 1% or less. Safe sex is obviously another option, too. Getting into a relationship with someone who has a different HIV status is not stupid, or dangerous. These people just have to be responsible enough to warn against the harms.

3. HIV can be cured

Fact: While several treatments for HIV exist, and are overwhelmingly effective, these treatments are primarily for management of the infection. HIV-positive individuals do have the ability to live long and healthy lives, but there is no ultimate cure. Antiretroviral treatment doesn’t simply give people a free pass or the go signal to engage in risky behavior.

2. You only contract HIV if you do drugs or are promiscuous 

Fact: There are a number of different ways to contract HIV. Yes, sharing needles and being promiscuous are some ways to become infected, but so are blood transfusions or unprotected sex with your partner. Furthering this narrative puts a label on all HIV-positive individuals while at the same time needlessly condemning promiscuity and drug addiction. It’s just a problematic portrayal from all lens.

1. HIV = AIDS

Fact: HIV is an infection which continuously attacks the immune system. When untreated, it results in a weakened immune response. This is what enables the causation of AIDS since it is a syndrome of immune system deficiency. The tendency to assume the worst and panic means that a majority of individuals do not seek or receive the proper treatment they need. This makes what could have been a manageable situation become dire. 

These misconceptions are harmful in a number of different ways. It makes people take risks, ignore advice, or even give up. These are ideas we have to change, and quickly.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Tell us in the comments! 

Sources:

https://www.avert.org/hiv-transmission-prevention/myths

https://www.hrc.org/resources/debunking-common-myths-about-hiv

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