HIV-AIDS-Some Myths and the Truths

Myth : HIV Spreads Like Wildfire

Truth: It does not spread so fast. And only 8% of people whose heterosexual partner carries HIV become infected each year. This low infectiousness in heterosexual relationships partly explains why HIV has spared most of the world’s populations.

But when a person is first infected with HIV, and still is negative on most HIV tests, that person is extremely infectious. This means that in certain circumstances HIV can spread fast.

Myth: Sex Work Is the Problem

Truth: Relatively few men with multiple sexual partners pay for sex. In areas of Africa where HIV is widespread, men often have financial arrangements with women who do not think of themselves as prostitutes. But targeting prostitutes does not reach these women and will not have a major impact on the epidemic.

Myth: Men Are the Problem

Truth: In areas where HIV is widespread, women are just as likely as men, in some areas, more likely, to be the sexual partner first infected with HIV.The proportion among women has steadily risen. HIV disproportionately affects women of color and women in disadvantaged populations

Myth: Teens Are the Problem

Truth: If HIV prevention efforts emphasize preaching abstinence to teens, they won’t have much effect on the epidemic. People of all ages get and spread HIV and that where HIV is epidemic, HIV becomes more common among women in their 20s and older.

One of the biggest myths in the U.S. is that abstinence until marriage will keep people from getting HIV.The fact is that many young people are sexually adventuresome. Just telling them not to have sex won’t help.And there’s another U.S. myth, that teaching young people about safe sex will make them promiscuous.

Myth : Poverty and Discrimination Are the Problem

Truth: In the developing world, HIV is more common in wealthier people than in poorer people. And some nations have reduced the spread of HIV without reducing poverty levels.

Myth : Condoms Are the Answer

Truth: Where HIV is widespread, people tend to have intimate relationships with more than one person at a time. In these regular relationships condom use is inconsistent at best. While condom promotion certainly cannot end the AIDS epidemic, it has a tremendous impact.

Myth: HIV Testing Is the Answer

Truth: There is a widespread belief that people who know they are infected with HIV will act responsibly and change their risky behavior. Real-world evidence of such change is discouraging, especially for the large majority who test negative. People recently infected with HIV are the most infectious, yet test negative for HIV.

Myth: Treatment Is the Answer

Truth: There is no clear evidence that anti-HIV treatment makes people less infectious or less likely to engage in risky behavior. In fact, such effects may be outweighed by resumed sexual activity by infected people who feel better. Moreover, risky behavior may increase if people no longer see HIV as a death threat.We have very effective therapy, we do not have a cure for Aids.

Myth : New Technology Is the Answer

Truth: There’s a huge amount of research into HIV vaccines, microbicides to block HIV, and drugs to prevent HIV infection.Unfortunately, any success appears to be far off.

And even if such breakthroughs occur, they will not stop the AIDS epidemic unless people reduce risk behavior.

Myth: Sexual Behavior Will Not Change

Truth: When HIV was still a death sentence in the U.S., gay men made radical changes in their behavior. And the drop in HIV prevalence in Kenya and in Zimbabwe was marked by a large drop in multiple sexual partners.

People who have multiple sexual partners drive the spread of HIV. In areas where HIV is widespread, people may not have a large number of sex partners, but they have more than one at the same time.

Once HIV enters one of these small networks, the entire network is likely to become infected. That makes having multiple concurrent partners more dangerous than serial monogamy, in which a partner has one partner for a time, and then another.

The important thing to understand is that while we may be having sex with only one person, we are being exposed to the risk from all the people with whom that person has had sex. It may be reassuring to have sex with only one person. But you still have to take personal responsibility for having safe sex.

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