Bust-A-Myth: HIV/AIDS

by Ore Fakorede

There are worse diseases and several that kill faster, but the notoriety that AIDS has managed to build up for itself in its near three decades of existence stands out in the history of pathology. Legends are usually a mix of fact and fiction, with the later often in greater proportion. But is the infamy of HIV/AIDS, in a rare exception to this norm, borne exclusively out of truth? Or is the bad news a product of extreme exaggeration, or even worse, an international conspiracy theory? Let’s find out.

Myth #1: HIV/AIDS is a homosexual disease.

Facts: Nothing could be further from the truth. According to statistics, HIV is spread globally mostly through heterosexual contact. Whether you’re straight, bent or twisted, you are at risk of being infected.

Myth #2: You can contact HIV/AIDS by kissing an infected person.

Facts: While this does not give you the liberty to lock lips with strangers at will, it is comforting to know that HIV cannot be transmitted via closed-mouthed kissing (brief lip to lip contact). Although there is no record of HIV transmission by kissing, it is wise to avoid mouth-to-mouth activity with an infected person due to the potentials of French-kissing (open-mouthed kissing) to induce blood contact through lip cuts.

Myth #3: Antiretroviral drugs prevent the transmission of HIV.

Facts: Don’t be deceived, just because these drugs limit the viral presence in an infected person’s body to an undetectable level does not mean that HIV has been expunged. AIDS has no known cure, and no matter how controlled the disease is, the virus can always be transmitted.

Myth #4: Mosquitoes spread HIV.

Facts: Medical researchers would probably roll their eyes at this myth, but it is only logical for everyday people to think that since HIV is spread through bodily fluids, mosquitoes could carry the virus. However, what obtains in reality is different. First, when mosquitoes bite, they do not inject the blood of previously bitten humans or animals. Second, HIV is a fragile virus, and it can only survive in an insect for a very short time. Malaria is still a potential killer though, so don’t dump the insecticides just yet.

Myth #5: Diaphragms, spermicides and birth control pills can prevent the transmission of HIV.

Facts: This is the kind of erroneous information that could get you killed faster than you can say “lie”. Birth control methods do not and are not supposed to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (including AIDS). The sole purpose of these varied methods is to prevent conception, and so, any woman looking to kill two birds with one stone must abstain from sex. It’s that simple.

Myth #6: You can contact HIV/AIDS by simply being around persons who are HIV-positive.

Facts: This is an idea borne out of paranoia. Let’s draw the line: it has been confirmed repeatedly that HIV cannot be spread through touch, sweat, saliva or tears. Furthermore, AIDS has never been contacted through:

1. Hugging or shaking hands with a person who is HIV-positive;

2. Touching objects that have been touched by an infected person; or

3. Sharing utensils (cutlery and plates) with infected persons.

You can stop worrying now.

Learn about the origins of HIV/AIDS here and track the spread of the disease with the UNFPA AIDS Clock.

What other myths have you been told about HIV/AIDS? Share some with us below!

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