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Common myths about HIV/AIDS

Provided by Business Partners Ltd, South Africa's leading investor in SMEs


There are many myths surrounding HIV/AIDS prevention, transmission and treatment. And as soon as one is cleared up, another one will rear its ugly head. Here are some common myths surrounding HIV/AIDS and what the real story is.

The expression "don't believe everything you hear" is especially true when it comes to HIV/AIDS. Here are some of the latest and most common untruths about the disease.

MYTH: Taking certain vitamins and supplements can cure AIDS
FACT: There is no known cure for HIV/AIDS. While taking vitamin supplements prescribed by your doctor, along with eating healthily, exercising, not smoking and drinking in moderation can help keep one healthier for longer, large doses of vitamins or immune boosters can actually do more harm than good.

MYTH: You can test negative once you've tested HIV-positive
FACT: Wrong again. Successful antiretroviral treatment, such as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), can cause the amount of HIV in the blood to be so low that viral load tests can't detect it. This does not mean, however, that the person is now HIV-negative. The most effective way to test for HIV is through a blood test.

MYTH: Mosquitoes Can Transmit HIV/AIDS
FACT: While mosquitoes can spread serious diseases like malaria and yellow fever, they can't transmit HIV or AIDS. Humans can't get HIV/AIDS from any insects or animals, because only humans can carry the virus.

MYTH: Condoms don't work; HIV can pass through the latex
FACT: If used correctly every sexual encounter, condoms are almost 99% effective. The other 1% is caused by human error. For example, if one doesn't use a condom all the time or if the condom breaks (which happens if used incorrectly). Latex blocks HIV and sperm, preventing pregnancy and other sexually transmitted infections as well.

MYTH: HIV doesn't cause AIDS
FACT: There is a lot of strong, respected, scientific evidence showing that AIDS (the syndrome) is caused by infection with the HI virus. No one has ever died of AIDS who wasn't HIV-positive. There is a small minority of people called "denialists" who disagree, but science concludes that HIV does in fact cause AIDS.

MYTH: Having sex with a virgin cures AIDS
FACT: Again, there is NO CURE for AIDS. There is no truth to this at all.

MYTH: HIV was invented to kill black people and homosexuals
FACT: This is a widespread CONSPIRACY THEORY that has no truth to it. When HIV was first discovered, we simply did not have the technology to create it.

MYTH: HIV-positive criminals are injecting unsuspecting people with their blood
FACT: This is an URBAN LEGEND with no truth in it. The truth is that 90% of infections are from unprotected heterosexual sex (sex between a man and a woman). Mother-to-child transmission is the second most common way of being infected. A very small proportion of infections come from needle sticks, usually when doctors or nurses prick themselves accidentally.

MYTH: My doctor wants me to take ARVs, but I hear they have really bad side effects and can even kill me
FACT: All medications have potential side effects, including headache tablets and painkillers. The side effects caused by antiretrovirals (ARVs) are mostly mild and vary from person to person. Some people take antiretroviral treatment for years with few problems, while others find the same drugs intolerable. Some side effects (such as nausea, diarrhoea and headache) appear shortly after starting a drug and disappear within a few weeks, as the body gets used to the new chemicals. On very rare occasions, side effects can be life threatening, but your doctor will assess you and prescribe the most appropriate drugs for you.

MYTH: MY partner and I are both HIV-positive, so we don't have to use condoms
FACT: If you're positive and sexually active, you MUST always use a condom to protect yourself and your partner from repeat infections which could hasten the onset of AIDS.

If you're ever unsure about something you've heard about HIV/AIDS, get the right information from a credible source.

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