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Myths About HIV

February 13, 2017

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Table of Contents


There are many myths about HIV. A myth is a story or an idea that is not true. In dealing with HIV, it is important to be able to tell reality from myth. Believing myths can result in fear, in denial, and even in damage to your health.

Myths About HIV and HIV Treatment

The Myth: "HIV does not cause AIDS."

The Reality: HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) causes AIDS, not party drugs, AZT, government conspiracies, or anything else. If you have AIDS, you have HIV. If you do not have HIV, you cannot get AIDS. This has been verified by over 25 years of solid, scientific proof.

The Myth: "HIV/AIDS was invented."

The Reality: There is no evidence to suggest that HIV/AIDS was invented in a laboratory; nor is there evidence to suggest that HIV is a result of government conspiracies. HIV/AIDS is not caused by party drugs, AZT, or mosquito bites. HIV is one of many viruses that is transmitted by body fluids including blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk.

The Myth: "HIV is a death sentence."

The Reality: This used to be true. In the 1980s and early '90s, there was still little known about how to treat people living with HIV (HIV+) or AIDS. Due to the lack of knowledge, absence of effective medications and fear, many people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS died. Thankfully, however, this is no longer the case. We now have more and better HIV drugs. If you stick to your treatment regimen and take good care of your body, you can live a long, full life with HIV.


The Myth: "There is a cure for HIV/AIDS."

The Reality: Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV yet, though research is currently taking place globally to find one. The research is based on cases that provide hope and clues for a potential cure. The Berlin patient is one example -- a man who was diagnosed with HIV in 1995, received an HIV-resistant donor's stem cells for his bone marrow transplant in 2007, and is now reported to be HIV-free. Scientists are working hard to find one, but there is no universal cure yet. For more information, see our fact sheet on Finding a Cure for HIV.

The Myth: "It is not AIDS that kills people; it is the medicines they take!"

The Reality: HIV drugs, known as antiretrovirals, do not cure HIV, but they can help keep people healthy for many years. People did die from AIDS before antiretrovirals became available and early in the epidemic when AZT dosing was too high. However, since combination antiretroviral therapy for HIV was begun in 1996, the average life expectancy for people living with HIV has increased. In addition, death rates for people living with HIV who receive combination antiretroviral treatment have dropped. Unfortunately, for some people HIV drugs may have side effects that can be life-threatening in very rare cases. The good news is that many of the newer HIV medications have fewer side effects and are easier to take.

The Myth: "Newer HIV drugs are so powerful, it is OK to stop taking them for a while (take a "drug holiday")."

The Reality: Some people are tempted to stop taking their HIV drugs for a short time because they feel well, are experiencing problems from side effects, or want to take a break from being reminded every day that they are living with HIV. However, studies have shown that interrupting your treatment or taking a "drug holiday" can cause problems. Stopping your HIV drugs can: (1) give the virus a chance to multiply and cause your viral load to rise, (2) give the virus a chance to develop resistance to your HIV drugs so that they no longer work, and (3) cause your CD4 cell count to drop and your immune system to weaken. Several studies have shown that continuing to take your HIV drugs as directed is the way to stay the healthiest the longest.

Myths About HIV Tests

The Myth: "The "AIDS test" cannot be trusted."

The Reality: The "AIDS test" is really an HIV test that measures HIV antigens (viral protein particles) and HIV antibodies, which are special proteins the body produces in response to infection. If you are infected, your immune system will make antibodies against HIV. The combined HIV antigen-antibody tests (also called 4th generation tests), can correctly detect HIV 99 to 100 percent of the time. Nevertheless, if the result of this test comes back positive, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that it be confirmed by an HIV-1/HIV-2 antibody differentiation immunoassay. The antibody differentiation immunoassay can not only confirm the first test, but also tell which type of HIV a person has -- either HIV-1 or HIV-2.

Rapid HIV tests are convenient, because they give results in about 20 minutes. However, even though false positives are very rare, a positive result from a rapid test is considered preliminary and should be confirmed by another HIV test. For more information on what HIV test is right for you, see our fact sheet on HIV testing.

The Myth: "Viral load tests do not really tell anything about a person's health."

The Reality: Viral load measures the amount of HIV in a person's blood. Many studies have shown that people with high viral loads are much more likely to become ill or die than those with low viral loads. They also give us important information about how well HIV drugs are working.

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This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.


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