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Word on the Street: What Is the Craziest Myth You've Heard About HIV/AIDS?

Word on the Street: What Is the Craziest Myth You've Heard About HIV/AIDS?

People living with and working in HIV are also front-line witnesses to the prevalence of HIV myths -- even now, after decades of information and education around HIV. We've asked scores of people from the Latino community to share some of the most colorful, unsettling myths they've heard. Take a look at what they had to say.

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Yolanda Diaz

Yolanda Diaz, New York City; Diagnosed in 1989

The craziest myth that I've heard about HIV is that you can have "full-blown AIDS" -- like, if you're "full-blown pregnant"! Either you have HIV or you have AIDS.

Also, the myths of: "Oh, I got HIV." "You're gonna die!" I think that now, people are really living with the virus because of medication, herbs, acupuncture, reiki, meditation, and I could go on. So many things that are out there -- I can see that people are just living with the virus instead of freaking dying with it, you know?

Jorge Zepeda

Jorge Zepeda, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, San Francisco, Calif.

"If I take a contraceptive pill, I'm not going to get HIV" -- that's one. The other one is a guy saying to a woman: "You don't menstruate anymore, so I don't have to use a condom."

We don't have an integrated reproductive health education package [in the U.S.]. We dissect HIV and then we have other STDs and then we have reproductive health. We don't put an integrated message out there.

You want to avoid HIV? You need to use condoms. But there are some other people who don't listen to the messages. They manufacture their own truths.

Antionettea Etienne

Antionettea Etienne, New York City; Diagnosed in 1997

The craziest, most outlandish myth that I've heard about HIV is about a Hispanic person going to a santera to take the virus out of their body: The smoke of cigars being blown on them and chicken blood being splattered on them and them lighting candles and stuff.

But I understand why a person of Latino descent would do so, because that is also part of my culture. They felt that brujería -- which is like witchcraft -- would help them get rid of HIV, but being a knowledgeable person in this field, I know that that would not work.

Abraham Calleros

Abraham Calleros, Milwaukee, Wisc.; Diagnosed in 1986

The craziest thing I've ever heard, as far as HIV/AIDS, is that if I get infected I don't have to worry about anything. Because now I'm infected, so I can still have sex with somebody that's already infected. And I keep trying to tell people, "Nope. That's not the way it works." Because now we're looking at possibly having superinfection.

Norman Medina

Norman Medina, Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative, Philadelphia, Pa.

One of the craziest myths that I've heard about HIV: I work with immigrant populations, and a lot of them say that HIV was created to kill the immigrant populations. I think it's crazy.

Michael Rivera

Michael Rivera, Latino Community Services, Hartford, Conn.

The craziest myth from way back in the day, when this thing started: You can catch HIV from eating from a person's plate, or drinking from their glass -- and 30 years later, it still exists. I still hear newly diagnosed people talking about that, at home, they are being served on paper plates. And they don't want to share the towels and all this stuff -- people being rejected by family and loved ones, and at workplaces, because of a disease.

Anthony Castro and Frankie Lopez

Anthony Castro (Diagnosed in 2000) and Frankie Lopez (Diagnosed in 2007), San Francisco, Calif.

Anthony: One of the myths that surprises me a lot is the fact that some people think HIV is a curse of God, that we are being punished by God because we committed a big sin. To me, it's not. God is love, and God is not going to punish somebody for being who they are. I believe that as a gay man I'm doing more for the community than many other people that profess and preach being really close to God.

Frankie: You hear a lot of crazy things about HIV and, very much like my partner, one of the most insane things that I've heard, if not the most insane, is that HIV is a curse from God. It's also the gay people's disease myth, which is ludicrous because, sadly, I can tell you of newborns with HIV. I can tell you of heterosexuals with HIV.

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