Last December 1 was World’s AIDS Day and though you’ve probably seen the ubiquitous red ribbon, are you really aware of what HIV is and how it is spread and managed? Or are you one of those who cringe and get judgemental about it? The medical technology may get too advanced, but some of us still get wrapped up in that old-school stigma that comes along upon hearing the words HIV and AIDS.
It’s time to live in the new world, because whether we like it or not HIV is here tostay.The spread of HIV has affected millions of people worldwide,with an estimate of33.4 million people worldwide living with HIV (by the WOrld Health Organization), with 2.7 million new HIV infections pe
r year and 2.0 million deaths due to AIDS. Sadly, a cure has not yet been found, but HIV infection can be managed well.
Whether we are infected or not, we owe it to ourselves to keep an open mind about HIV and AIDS. Know the facts first and weigh them well before jumping to conclusions.
It’s time to debunk those HIV/AIDS misconceptions like:
HIV and AIDS are one and the same thing.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Not all HIV-infected individuals have AIDS, as the virus can remain latent for many years. The stage of HIV infection with no symptoms can lasts an average of eight to 10 years. The virus alters the immune system, making people much more vulnerable to infections and diseases. This susceptibility worsens as the infection progresses. The stage of symptomatic infection, in which the body’s immune system has been suppressed is called the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The symptoms are caused by the complications of AIDS, which include one or more unusual infections or cancers, severe loss of weight, chills, weakness, diarrhea, and intellectual deterioration.
HIV is only acquired by homosexuals. The virus can be contracted by anyone regardless of sexual preference. Most men do become HIV-positive through sexual contact with other men or through injection drug use. However, 78% of women and only about 16% of men and become HIV-positive through heterosexual contact. Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers have HIV.
Being HIV positive is as good as being dead. In the early years of the disease epidemic, the death rate from AIDS was extremely high. Today, though, antiretroviral drugs allow HIV-positive people – and even those with AIDS – to live much longer, normal, and productive lives as the condition, though incurable, can be managed.
If my partner is also infected, there’s no need to practice safer sex anymore. Practicing safe sex with the use of condoms, dental dams and monogmay– can protect you and your partner from exposure to other strains of HIV.
You can tell by appearance if an individual is HIV positive. Due to media images of the effects of AIDS, many people believe that individuals infected with HIV will always appear sickly compared to an uninfected, healthy person. The truth is, the progression of the disease can occur over a long period of time before the onset of symptoms, so HIV infections cannot be detected based on appearance. The only way for everyone to know if they’re infected is to get tested.