9 Persistent Myths About HIV

Mathew Rodriguez Apr 7, 2015
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HIV/AIDS Is a Death Sentence
HIV/AIDS Is a Death Sentence
An HIV/AIDS diagnosis is not a one-way ticket to a shorter lifespan. This was not true in the earlier days of the epidemic when there was little to no treatment available, but the advent of effective antiretroviral therapy in the late 1990s has changed all this. If you keep up with your meds, and take care of your body through diet and exercise, there's no reason you can't live a long, healthy life with HIV.
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There's a Cure Being Withheld
There's a Cure Being Withheld
There is no secret cure being withheld. Magic Johnson is not cured. The only person to be cured of HIV, Timothy Brown, was cured through a costly and dangerous procedure that is not likely replicable. We need more funding for cure research, and we also need to focus on the many social, political and economic issues facing people living with HIV in the here and now.
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HIV Meds Are More Harmful Than Helpful
HIV Meds Are More Harmful Than Helpful
It's true that meds can cause side effects, be expensive and be a burden to remember to take. But treatment saves lives. It also reduces the risk of HIV transmission, because it can reduce the level of HIV so much that a person is no longer infectious. Overall, HIV meds are an essential asset to the lives of most people living with HIV and crucial in the plan to end the HIV epidemic. If you're having difficulty adapting to life on meds, help is available to make it easier.
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HIV Risk, and Health, Are About Your Behavior
HIV Risk, and Health, Are About Your Behavior
Research shows that different kinds of trauma -- particularly childhood sexual abuse -- can increase the risk for many diseases, including HIV. Survivors of trauma may be more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors and substance use that promote HIV acquisition. A history of trauma can also lead to faster disease progression in people living with HIV. Trauma-informed HIV care is a supportive way for people to get care while healing from trauma.
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Being in a Couple Protects You From HIV
Being in a Couple Protects You From HIV
Unfortunately, love is not a method of HIV prevention. For example, research shows that, among gay men in the U.S., about two-thirds who become HIV positive are in a relationship. In Malawi, marriage has even been identified as a risk factor for HIV infection in women.
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Everyone Is at Equal Risk for HIV
Everyone Is at Equal Risk for HIV
It's true that nearly anyone can contract HIV. However, there are groups of people that are at elevated risk for HIV -- not  because of extra risky behavior, but because of the very high rates of HIV among those communities, which includes gay and bisexual men, people of color (especially blacks and Latinos), transgender people and people with mental illness. This is not the fault of these individuals -- they are members of groups that often face other socioeconomic and political forms of oppression that put people at higher risk for HIV.
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HIV-Positive People Can't Become Parents
HIV-Positive People Can't Become Parents
HIV-positive people can experience any of the great pleasures of life that HIV-negative people can, including the chance to have a child. Pregnant people with HIV can take medication to ensure their child does not get HIV.  And HIV treatment and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can both be used as a part of conception for mixed-status couples. You can read this infographic addressing the myths around HIV and pregnancy to learn more.
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You Can Get HIV From [Insert Outlandish Transmission Route]
You Can Get HIV From [Insert Outlandish Transmission Route]
HIV is actually relatively difficult to get. You need a bodily fluid that has the virus in it, a port of entry and immune system cells that pick up the virus and allow it to take hold. The fluids are semen, pre-semen, breastmilk, vaginal fluids and blood. The most common port of entries are the anus, the vagina, the mouth and the bloodstream. Saliva is not a transmitting fluid. If you find yourself consumed by worry about HIV transmission, ask our experts for more information.
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HIV Is a Chronic Manageable Disease for All
HIV Is a Chronic Manageable Disease for All
With effective treatment, HIV can be a manageable disease for many. But maintaining stability and health can be challenging for those facing other physical or mental illnesses, financial struggles, stigma or imprisonment. Differences in HIV status and survival vary greatly across the U.S. and around the world. HIV also can bring social and legal challenges, like HIV criminalization, not found with most other diseases.
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Mathew Rodriguez is the community editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com. You can follow him on Twitter, like his Facebook page or visit him on his personal website.