Myth Busters: What you thought you knew about HIV

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Infographic generated by PBS

According to the World Aids Campaign, 34 million people in the world today are living with HIV/AIDS. The Metro DC region itself has the highest prevalence rate in the United States with 3.2% of its population living with HIV/AIDS –nearly 10 times the national average.

World Aids Day, December 1st, is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against stigma, show their support for people living with HIV, and commemorate people who have passed away. This year, LSS/NCA wants to help bust some of the common myths about HIV/AIDS so you can stay informed and help fight the stigma of aids.

Myth: HIV can be spread through kissing or sharing utensils
Fact: HIV may be found in saliva, but it is too small an amount to infect anyone

Myth: HIV can be spread through non-sexual physical contact such as hugging, sharing toilet seats, and from mosquito bites.
Fact: HIV cannot be spread through physical contact unless you have an open wound which comes into contact with the body fluids (semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, blood or pre-ejaculatory fluids) of an HIV-positive person. Body fluids such as saliva, sweat, and tears cannot transmit HIV. Also, as the virus cannot survive in insects; HIV cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites.

Myth: I’m straight and don’t use IV drugs — I won’t become HIV-positive.
Fact: Most men do become HIV-positive through sexual contact with other men or through injection drug use. However, about 16% of men and 78% of women become HIV-positive through heterosexual contact.

Myth: I could tell if my partner was HIV-positive.
Fact: You can be HIV-positive and not have any symptoms for years. The only way for you or your partner to know if you’re HIV-positive is to get tested.

Myth: HIV is a death sentence.
Fact: Today, antiretroviral drugs allow HIV-positive people — and even those with AIDS — to live longer, normal, and productive lives.

Myth: You can’t have kids if you’re HIV-positive.
Fact: There are ways to keep your child from contracting the virus. Your child can have every opportunity to live a long, healthy life. Find more information here.

Myth: HIV antiretrovirals do more harm than good.
Fact: There are some negative side effects, but the treatment has cut the AIDS death rate by 80%. Ask your doctor if this is the right treatment for you.

Myth: You can use alternative medicines to treat or cure HIV
Fact: Alternative medicines are not proven and can be very dangerous.

Myth: I’m receiving treatment so I can’t spread the HIV virus.
Fact: Though the treatments can reduce the amount of virus in your blood so that it doesn’t show on tests, it may still be hiding in other areas of your body. Practicing safe sex is still essential so that you can protect your loved ones.

Myth: I don’t need to practice safe sex because my partner and I are both HIV-positive.
Fact: You and your partner may have different strains of the virus. Thus, it is always important to practice safe sex.

 Knowledge is power. Now that you know the truth about HIV/AIDS, be empowered to tell others and help us reduce the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

If you are interested in learning more about LSS/NCA’s Youth Haven program—programming and summer camps for youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS in the Washing DC metro area– please contact Kati Miller-Holland at hollandk@lssnca.org.

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Children overlook Maryland Valley at Youth Haven Camps
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