HIV & AIDS: Myths and Facts


HIV & AIDS: Since the discovery of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in Ghana, there have been several myths surrounding the condition.

People living with HIV have gone through a lot of stigma.

Some years ago, being infected with the virus was equated to a death sentence.

What even made it scary was that once you got infected, nothing could be done about it.

Years later, a lot has changed. That notwithstanding, there still exit some myths around the condition.

In this piece, Ghana Health News takes you on a tour of some myths and facts surrounding the condition.

If anyone should get infected today, chances are that that person can still live a normal life just as though he or she were not infected. Thanks to Anti Retro-viral medicines.

And thanks to the great deal of research that has gone into making people living with HIV having a full life.

The face of HIV has changed and it is almost impossible to tell on if  a person is living with HIV when they take their medicines as required and stick to all the advice of their doctors.

HIV & AIDS | Having HIV Means You Have AIDS

Myth. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that destroys the body’s CD4 immune cells, which help fight disease. With the right medications, you can have HIV for years or decades without HIV progressing to AIDS. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is diagnosed when you have HIV as well as certain opportunistic infections or your CD4 cell count drops below 200.

HIV & AIDS | It’s Difficult to Get HIV From Casual Contact

Fact. You can’t catch or spread HIV from hugging someone, using the same towel, or sharing the same glass. It’s very rare to get HIV from a blood transfusion — the blood supply is carefully tested. However, you can acquire the disease from having unprotected sex, sharing needles, or getting a tattoo from unsterilized equipment.

HIV & AIDS | You Have Just a Few Years to Live

Myth. Because of the HIV drugs that are now available, the truth is that many people can live for decades with HIV and have a normal or near-normal life span. You can help prevent HIV from progressing to AIDS by seeing your doctor regularly, taking you medicines, and following your doctor’s guidance.

HIV & AIDS | You’ll Know You Have HIV Because of Your Symptoms

Myth. Some people don’t show any signs of HIV for years after being infected. However, many can have some symptoms within 10 days to a few weeks after infection. These first symptoms are similar to the flu or mononucleosis and may include fever, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, rash, and muscle aches. They usually disappear after a few weeks and you may not have symptoms again for several years. The only way to tell you have HIV is to get tested.

HIV & AIDS | HIV Can Be Cured

Myth. At this time, there is no cure for HIV in most cases, but treatment can keep virus levels low and help maintain your immune system. Some drugs interfere with proteins HIV needs to copy itself; others block the virus from entering or inserting its genetic material into your immune cells. All HIV-infected persons should take these medicines, which are given in combination and are called antiretroviral therapy.  Several one-pill-a day regimens are available. Your doctor will advise what combination of drugs is best for you.

HIV & AIDS | Anyone Can Get HIV

Fact. About 37,600 people in the U.S. get HIV each year, and more than 12,000 people with AIDS die each year. Anyone can get HIV — men, women, and children, people who are gay or straight. Men who have sex with men make up about 26,3000 new HIV infections each year. Women account for about 7,400 new infections. African-Americans continue to experience the most severe burden of HIV, compared with other races and ethnicities.

HIV & AIDS | Sex Is Safe When Both Partners Have HIV

Myth. Just because you and your partner both have HIV, doesn’t mean you should forget about protection when having sex. Using a condom or other latex barrier can help protect you from other sexually transmitted diseases as well as other strains of HIV, which may be resistant to anti-HIV medication. Even if you are being treated and feel well you can still infect others.

HIV & AIDS | You Can Have a Baby if You Are HIV-Positive

Fact. Infected mothers can indeed pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy or delivery. However, you can lower the risk by working with your doctor and getting the appropriate care and medication. Pregnant women with HIV can take medications to treat their infection and to help protect their babies against the virus.

HIV & AIDS | You Can’t Avoid Other HIV-Related Infections

Myth. Due to weakened immune systems, people with HIV can be vulnerable to infections like pneumocystis pneumonia, tuberculosis, candidiasis, cytomegalovirus, and toxoplasmosis. The best way to reduce the risk is to take your HIV medications. For people with advanced HIV infection (AIDS), some of these infections can be prevented with specific drugs in addition to your antiretroviral therapy. You can lessen exposure to some germs by avoiding undercooked meat, litter boxes, and water that may be contaminated.

HIV & AIDS | You Can’t Get Lifesaving Drugs Without Insurance

Myth. There are government programs, nonprofit groups, and some pharmaceutical companies that may help cover of the cost of HIV/AIDS drugs. But be aware: These drug “cocktails” can cost $10,000 a year or more. Talk to your local HIV/AIDS service organization to learn about financial help.