HIV/AIDS - Myth versus Reality
Myth: HIV or AIDS can be cured
Reality: To date, there is no cure for HIV or AIDS and there are no
vaccines to prevent HIV infection.
Myth: HIV/AIDS is a gay disease.
Reality: Anyone can be susceptible to HIV/AIDS, regardless of their
sexual orientation. Everyone is at risk of getting HIV from blood-to-blood
contact, sharing needles or unsafe sex. Worldwide, HIV is spread most often
through heterosexual contact.
Myth: You can get HIV from breathing the air around an HIV-infected
person or from hugging or holding hands with an HIV-infected person.
Reality: HIV cannot be transmitted through...
- toilet seats or door-knob handles.
- touching, hugging, holding hands, or cheek kissing with an HIV-infected
- sharing eating utensils with an HIV-infected person.
- mosquito bites.
HIV is transmitted through contact with an HIV-positive person's infected
body fluids, such as semen, pre-ejaculate fluid, vaginal fluids, blood, or
breast milk. HIV can also be transmitted through needles contaminated with
HIV-infected blood, including needles used for injecting drugs, tattooing or
Myth: I can get HIV by sharing exercise equipment or playing sports
with an HIV-positive person.
Reality: Contact with sweat or tears has never been shown to result in
transmission of HIV.
Myth: You can get HIV by kissing an HIV-infected person.
Reality: Casual contact through closed-mouth or "social"
kissing is not a risk for transmission of HIV. Because of the theoretical
potential for contact with blood during "French" or open-mouthed
kissing, the CDC recommends against engaging in this activity with an infected
person. However, no cases of AIDS have been attributed to any kind of kissing.
Myth: You cannot get HIV if you are using birth control methods like
diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges, spermicides, DepoProvera, Norplant, or the
Reality: These birth control methods do not prevent the transmission of
sexually transmitted diseases (STD) such as HIV. They only aim to prevent
pregnancy. The surest way to prevent both pregnancy and an STD is through
abstinence. One way people who are sexually active may prevent pregnancy and STD
infection is to use a condom in combination with another form of birth control,
such as a diaphragm, cervical cap, sponge, spermicide, DepoProvera, Norplant, or
the Pill. Birth control products containing the spermicide nonoxynol-9 (found in
most contraceptive creams, gels, suppositories, foams, films and sponges) help
to prevent pregnancy but may increase the risk of HIV.
Myth: I can't have more than one sexually transmitted disease (STD) at
Reality: A person can be infected with more than one STD. A person with
an untreated STD may also be 6-10 times more likely to pass on or acquire HIV
during sex. Risk for infection increases 10 to 300-fold in the presence of a
genital ulcer, such as occurs in syphilis or genital herpes.
Myth: There is no such thing as safer sex.
Reality: Safer sex is sexual activity without penetration, or sex with a
latex condom or a latex barrier (in the case of oral sex). Although safer sex
can substantially reduce the sexual transmission of an STD like HIV, sexual
abstinence is the surest way to prevent the sexual transmission of an STD,
Myth: Since I only have oral sex, I'm not at risk for HIV/AIDS.
Reality: You can get HIV by having oral sex with a man or a woman. That
is why it is important to use a latex barrier during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
Myth: I would know if a loved one or I had HIV.
Reality: A person with HIV may not show any symptoms for up to 10 years.
Since HIV affects each person differently, many people with HIV can look and
feel healthy for years. The only sure way to know is to get tested.
Myth: Getting tested for HIV is pointless.
Reality: Knowing if you are HIV-positive will allow you to seek early
treatment that can help you stay healthy longer and enable you not to pass on
the virus to someone else. Regardless of your HIV status, you can learn how to
prevent further infection from HIV and other STDs through counseling offered at
many HIV testing centers.
Myth: When you're on HIV therapy you can't transmit the virus to
Reality: Antiretroviral drugs don't keep you from passing the virus to
others. Therapy can keep the viral load down to undetectable levels, but HIV is
still present in the body and can still be transmitted to others.
For more, please visit the MedicineNet.com Human Immunodeficiency Virus Center.
Source: American Association of World Health
Last Editorial Review: 8/8/2002