According to The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), there were 37.6 million people in the world living with HIV in 2020, where 35.9million were adults and 1.7million were children (less than 15 years).
Even with the improvements in HIV awareness, access to testing, and improvements in care, there is still some misinformation about HIV/AIDS as seen in the recent controversy with popular American rapper, Dababy.
Here are a few myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS followed by myth busters.
HIV/AIDS; A death sentence
People living with HIV/AIDS don’t have two or three weeks to live. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has been in use since 1996 and what was once a fatal diagnosis has now become a chronically managed disease. People living with HIV/AIDS can live normal lives if they take their drugs regularly and go for regular follow up in the hospital.
I would know if I have HIV/AIDS
Like other diseases, HIV/AIDS can be asymptomatic. The symptoms may not show for years and when there are symptoms, they are similar to other diseases such as fever, generalised body pains, weakness, among others. The symptoms people often ascribe to HIV/AIDS used to occur in the late stages of the disease or due to complications before the advent of HAART. Now, people living with HIV/AIDS are relatively healthy. It is recommended that everyone between 18 and 64 is tested at least once as part of routine blood work.
People living with HIV/AIDS cannot safely have children
Prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV is a public health goal and the components include:
– Primary prevention of HIV in women of childbearing age
– Prevention of unwanted pregnancies in women living with HIV
– Prevention of HIV transmission from a woman living with HIV to her child
– Provision of appropriate treatment, care, and support to women living with HIV and their children and families.
This has helped to reduce the vertical transmission rates and people living with HIV can safely have children.
Early antiretroviral treatment as prescribed by the healthcare provider before, during, and after the pregnancy and also treatment for the baby from birth to six weeks after delivery has helped to reduce transmission rates from mother to child.
Women who are HIV negative and have partners living with HIV and want to get pregnant would have to take pre-exposure prophylaxis and the partner has to have undetectable viral loads.
You can get HIV by being around people living with HIV/AIDS
HIV can only be transmitted via blood, semen, vaginal fluid, anal mucous, and breast milk. Infection occurs when these bodily fluids enter the bloodstream via unprotected sex (including the use of sex toys), intravenous drugs by using a needle that has infected blood in it, from mother to child via pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. HIV cannot bè gotten through kissing, holding hands, sharing cutlery, insect bites, among others.
You can get HIV/AIDS via Oral sex
As aforementioned earlier, HIV infection can only occur through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, anal mucous, and breast milk. HIV infection cannot happen via oral sex except one of the partners have large open sores in the mouth or on the genitals or in a woman living with HIV who is also menstruating at the time.
Herbal remedies, Ampiclox, rings can protect you from HIV
When having sexual intercourse, the only methods of HIV prevention are condoms and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Wearing a charm ring does not protect you from HIV, neither does showering after sex nor taking Ampiclox. Herbal remedies also do not offer protection from HIV.
In addendum, while there is still no cure for HIV, with the advent of HAART as mentioned earlier, People living with HIV can live relatively normal and productive lives.
The U=U campaign which means undetectable equals untransmittable seeks to spread awareness that medications for HIV are effective.
It means people living with HIV who have undetectable viral loads in their system due to treatment cannot transmit the virus. The UNAIDS’s 90-90-90 goals set that by 2020, 90% of people living with HIV will know their status, 90% of people who know their status will be on HAART and 90% of people on treatment will achieve viral suppression.
It is therefore advisable for you to know your status. Take an HIV test today, it is free in most places.