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Fact Sheet
AIDS Myths and Misunderstandings

April 18, 2012

Why Are There so Many AIDS Myths?

When AIDS first showed up, it was a very mysterious disease. It killed a lot of people. There are still many unanswered questions about the disease. A lot of people reacted with fear and came up with stories to back up their fear. Most of these stories had to do with how easy it was to get infected with HIV. Most of these are not true.

Myths About "Catching" HIV

Many people believed that HIV and AIDS could be transmitted by a mosquito bite, by sharing a drinking glass with someone with AIDS, by being around someone with AIDS who was coughing, by hugging or kissing someone with AIDS, and so on. See Fact Sheet 150 for current information on how HIV is transmitted. Transmission can only occur if someone is exposed to blood, semen, vaginal fluid or mother's milk (see Fact Sheet 611) from an infected person. There is no proven case of transmission from the tears, sweat, saliva or urine of an infected person.

Myths About a Cure

It can be very scary to have HIV infection or AIDS. The course of the disease is not very predictable. Some people get very sick in just a few months. Others live healthy lives. The treatments can be difficult to take, with serious side effects. Not everyone can afford the medications. It's not surprising that scam artists have come up with several "cures" for AIDS that involve a variety of substances. Unfortunately, none of these "cures" work. Scientists are working hard on finding a cure for AIDS. See Fact Sheet 206 for more information on frauds related to AIDS.

A very unfortunate myth in some parts of the world is that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS. As a result, many young girls have been exposed to HIV and have developed AIDS. There is no evidence to support this belief.

AIDS Is a Death Sentence

In the 1980s, there was a very high death rate from AIDS. However, medications have improved dramatically and so has the life span of people with HIV infection. If you have access to AIDS medications and medical monitoring, there's no reason you can't live a long life even with HIV infection or AIDS.

The Government Developed AIDS to Reduce Minority Populations

The world's best researchers in government and in private pharmaceutical companies are working hard to try to stop AIDS. Scientists don't know how to create a virus.

Many minorities do not trust the government, especially regarding health care. A recent study in Texas found that as many as 30% of Latinos and African Americans believed that HIV is a government conspiracy to kill minorities. However, it seems that minorities get less health care for the same reasons as anyone else: low income, inconvenient health care offices, fear of being sick, and so on.

Myths About Medications

It has been very challenging for doctors to choose the best anti-HIV medications for their patients. When the first drugs were developed, they had to be taken as many as three times a day. Some drugs had complicated requirements about storage, or what kind of food they had to be taken with, or how long you had to wait after eating before taking a dose. The medications have changed dramatically. However, there are still some myths:

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