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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that has a damaging effect on the immune system. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the third and final stage of the disease. In the absence of timely treatment, the virus can create havoc on your immune system resulting in weakened immunity and leaving your body prone to multiple infections that can be detrimental to your health. It is crucial that you know about the condition in its true sense. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions or myths about AIDS and HIV that can cause fear, worry, and shame—and no one should feel shame about getting tested for HIV or any other kind of sexually transmitted disease.
So, here, we clear the air by busting these 7 myths about HIV and AIDS and get the facts right:
Fact: HIV does not spread through physical touch be it holding hands, touching, kissing, or hugging/cuddling. The disease spreads only when you come in contact with specific body fluids like breast milk, blood and blood products, semen, and vaginal and pre-seminal fluid. Also, the virus has a chance to get transmitted through used needles with infected blood. Besides, there is a possibility for the virus to cross the placenta and infect the fetus or transmit during childbirth or breastfeeding. Though the virus does exist in fluids like saliva, it is insufficient to be transmitted through kissing.
Fact: while it is true that HIV patients had a short life expectancy at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, today the situation is completely different. Medical advancement and newer, improved medications have significantly changed the game.
Today, people with HIV have highly improved life spans with many even having a normal life expectancy. And that’s not all, early intervention may even help prevent HIV from turning into AIDS.
Fact: People with HIV can have children, however, there remains a higher risk of passing the infection to their children. During pregnancy, HIV patients must take antiretroviral medication as prescribed, go for C-section delivery, and not breastfeed their baby. They need to take utmost precautions during and after childbirth to avoid transmitting the infection to their newborns and allow their children to live healthy lives from birth.
Fact: It is correct that there doesn’t exist any drug to cure HIV infection completely, but there are treatments that can help control the spread of the virus and keep your immune system intact. Plus, these drugs also help to prevent HIV from turning into AIDS.
Fact: HIV infection when left untreated for a long duration results in full-blown AIDS. When people living with HIV follow their treatment plan carefully and keep up with their medications religiously, they won’t necessarily end up with AIDS – the third and final stage of HIV infection.
Fact: HIV-positive couples need to follow up with their treatment schedule and protect themselves and each other as well. This is because of the fact that both may be carrying a different strain of the virus that can endanger each other and lead to reinfection. For this reason, they must use protection during sexual intercourse if both are infected with HIV and at the same time be aware of each other’s HIV status if one of them is HIV positive.
Fact: Most forms of birth control will not offer protection against HIV. The only forms that can protect against HIV are contraceptives such as male condoms and female condoms that create a physical barrier to block fluids from entering a partner’s body.
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