AIDS is the result of HIV. It ultimately leads to death. Since it was discovered, there has been a great deal of controversy and fear surrounding HIV/AIDS, the latter rightfully so. Painful death is common with this illness, so fear of it is natural. In some cases, the myths surrounding AIDS are designed to reduce that fear in certain factions and place the fear on others. Other myths increase the fear in all factions needlessly.
1. To Avoid Getting AIDS, People with AIDS Should Be Avoided
There is an overblown perception that AIDS is easily transferable. This is not the case. Merely touching someone, kissing someone or eating after someone with AIDS is not going to result in the transmission of HIV. The virus can only be spread through infected body fluids and then only in specific ways. Babies drinking infected mother’s milk can contract it. It is sexually transmitted, and it can be transmitted through blood transfusions.
While infected blood is a concern when it enters beyond the skin barrier immediately, HIV does not live long outside the body. Therefore, blood-sucking insects like mosquitoes and bed bugs are not carriers of the disease. It is possible to be bitten immediately after a person with AIDS and not get HIV. There are large areas where AIDS is considered an epidemic and mosquitoes are common, but it is lack of protection, prevention and treatment that are the problems, not mosquitoes.
2. Only Homosexuals Get AIDS
The myth that only homosexuals get AIDS is one of those myths that put the onus on another group in order to reduce fear for those outside of it. It is also a great way for people with pre-existing hate to cement that hatred. Well, people who believe this myth are putting themselves at great risk if they believe they are safe because of their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with AIDS. In fact, children who have never had intercourse can get HIV from their mothers or from blood transfusions.
This myth appears to have begun when HIV was first discovered in the United States. The fact is that HIV is easier to spread through anal intercourse because of the thin lining in the anus. Just a small tear and it can enter the bloodstream. Therefore, it spread through the homosexual community quite rapidly. However, it is just as easily spread through heterosexual anal intercourse and needle sharing. It is also nearly as easily transmitted through vaginal sex.
3. People with AIDS Cannot Spread HIV if They Are Being Treated
Treatment for HIV/AIDS can reduce the amount of virus found in the bloodstream. That does not mean it is not there. Furthermore, a lot of the treatment for AIDS is for comfort and to prevent infection. Neither of these things can stop the spread of infection. Safe sex, safe needle use in addicts or abstaining from both are really the only ways to ensure that the disease is not contracted through sex or drug use.
4. There is No Need for Protection between Two People with AIDS/HIV
HIV, like many viruses, is not just one type of virus. It comes in different strains, some of which are resistant to treatment. In this way, it is possible to get sicker or make someone else sicker by foregoing protection. Even in the AIDS stage of HIV illness, there is hope and no reason to exacerbate the illness.
Contrary to popular belief, HIV is not the only cause of AIDS. However, it is the most common, so any myths that apply to HIV or AIDS apply to both. It is important to get information for such diseases from reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control, instead of from potentially biased sources with an agenda.
Author Byline: Aaron Langley is a director of public health services and guest author at MPH Online, a site with guides and resources to assist prospective students in evaluating top-rated MPH degree programs online.
- The New Truth of AIDS (emoryjia.org)