World AIDS Day is observed every year on December 1 and the day aims to raise awareness about AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) – a condition caused by HIV infection which has killed lakhs of people globally over the years. AIDS is the late stage of HIV that occurs when the body’s immune system is badly damaged because of the virus. Therefore timely diagnosis and treatment of HIV can save lives. When it comes to AIDS and HIV, several myths abound. On World AIDS Day 2023, Dr Honey Savla, Internist at Wockhardt Hospitals Mumbai Central, busts some important myths about HIV-AIDS.
World AIDS Day 2023: Popular Myths Busted
“HIV-AIDS continues to be a global health challenge, affecting millions of lives and prompting ongoing efforts to educate and raise awareness. Despite the progress made in understanding and managing the virus, persistent myths and misconceptions contribute to stigma and hinder effective prevention and treatment efforts,” shares Dr Honey Savla. Dr Savla busts the following misconceptions about the infection:
Myth 1: HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through casual contact
Fact: HIV is primarily transmitted through specific bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. It is not spread through casual contact like hugging, shaking hands, or sharing utensils. Understanding the modes of transmission is crucial to combating the stigma associated with HIV-positive individuals.
Myth 2: You can contract HIV from mosquito bites
Fact: HIV cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites. The virus is fragile and cannot survive in insects. The only known modes of transmission are through unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing needles, and mother-to-child transmission during childbirth or breastfeeding.
Myth 3: HIV/AIDS only affects specific groups of people
Fact: HIV/AIDS can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. While certain populations may be at higher risk due to specific behaviours, the virus does not discriminate. It is essential to promote inclusivity in awareness campaigns and eliminate stereotypes associated with HIV/AIDS.
Myth 4: HIV-positive individuals cannot lead healthy lives
Fact: With advancements in medical treatment, people living with HIV can lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps control the virus, allowing individuals to maintain a normal life expectancy and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others. Early diagnosis and proper medical care are crucial for managing the virus effectively.
Myth 5: You can tell if someone has HIV/AIDS by their appearance
Fact: HIV/AIDS does not have a specific “look.” People living with the virus may appear healthy, and symptoms can vary widely. Relying on appearance to determine someone’s HIV status perpetuates stigma and discrimination. Regular testing, open communication, and education are essential for promoting understanding.
Myth 6: HIV is a death sentence
Fact: Contrary to the myth that an HIV diagnosis is a death sentence, advancements in medical science have transformed the prognosis for individuals living with the virus. Proper medical care, early diagnosis, and access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) can effectively manage the virus, allowing individuals to lead healthy lives. With treatment, people living with HIV can have a normal life expectancy and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
“Dispelling myths surrounding HIV/AIDS is vital for fostering accurate knowledge and creating a supportive environment for those affected. Education plays an important role in reducing stigma, encouraging regular testing, and promoting safe behaviours. By understanding the facts, we can work towards a world where everyone has access to information and resources needed to prevent, manage, and ultimately eradicate HIV/AIDS,” says Dr Savla.
Difference Between HIV And AIDS
HIV (Human immunodeficiency viruses) may cause an infection while AIDS is a condition. AIDS is acquired only after the contraction of HIV, but not all HIV cases develop into AIDS. In AIDS, your immune system is severely weakened. You can’t develop AIDS without contracting HIV. But as experts point out, medical science’s progress has ensured that people infected with HIV, with proper and timely diagnosis and treatment, can lead full lives.