7 things people still don’t understand about HIV and AIDS

Treatment for HIV and AIDS has progressed massively, but sadly our attitudes have yet to catch up.

Being ignorant is not only stigmatising and harmful for those who live with HIV but it can also put your or your partner’s health at risk.

I have OCD and an element of my illness is severe health anxiety.

This means I can get really overwhelmed with obsessive thoughts about health and, in particular, the fear of catching HIV.

In a bid to understand the illness better, I spoke to my friend Tom, who is HIV positive.

And it has really helped open my eyes.

In all honestly, it’s made me realise just how much I have been influenced by society’s negative portrayal of HIV and AIDS.

And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

So, here are seven myths that need debunking right now.

1. Only gay men get HIV

Gay and bisexual men are disproportionately affected by HIV, but HIV is not a ‘gay disease’.

There are thousands of heterosexual men and women living with HIV in the UK.

This means that you should be using protecting and regularly getting tested, whoever you want to get naked with.

Ignorance may feel like bliss, but HIV couldn’t give a s*** about your sexual preference.

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2. You can get HIV through kissing

HIV is not transmitted via every day contact.

And you can’t get HIV through using the same cooking utensils as someone living with HIV.

In fact, there are only a few very specific ways through which HIV transmission can occur in the UK:

-Having sex with someone without a condom, or

-Sharing injecting equipment.

Metro Illustrations

3. You can get HIV by standing on used, discarded needles

It’s quite a niche concept since you’re unlikely to be trotting around barefoot with used needles scattered on the floor.

But hey, this article is about myth-busting, not judging how you spend your weekend.

Just FYI, HIV does not live outside of the body for longer than a few minutes at the most.

4. It is easy to contract HIV by having sex with someone who is HIV positive

When used properly, condoms work extremely well at preventing HIV.

Anti-retroviral treatment now means that most people in the UK who are living with HIV and are having treatment have an ‘undetectable viral load’.

Not only does this indicate that the person’s HIV is under control, it also means that it is almost impossible to transmit the virus to their partners during sex. Which is pretty amazing really.

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You may have heard of ‘PrEP’.

It’s a major game changer for HIV prevention because those who are at risk of contracting HIV can take it and it is almost 100% effective at preventing HIV.

Unfortunately, PrEP is currently not available in the UK on the NHS.

Which feels very ‘being gay is a lifestyle choice’ if you ask me.

(Picture: METRO/MylesGoode)

5. If you have been exposed to HIV there is nothing you can do

Most people are unaware that if you think you might have recently been exposed to HIV, you can take something called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which can prevent you from contracting the virus.

You can access PEP at any sexual health clinic or A&E department.

6. HIV is a death sentence

HIV treatment is now extremely effective at keeping people healthy and well.

If you are diagnosed and start treatment within good time, you have the same life expectancy as someone who does not have HIV.

Having HIV is not the same as having AIDS.

Put simply, HIV is a virus. AIDS is a condition caused by HIV.

You can have HIV without developing AIDS, and many people live for years with HIV without ever developing AIDS.

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7. If you have HIV, you cannot have children

HIV treatment can now be used to prevent HIV transmission from occurring between mother and child.

It means that a couple, where one or both are HIV positive, can now conceive and give birth to perfectly healthy HIV-negative children.

Originally posted 2016-11-30 23:59:11.






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