HIV is no longer a death sentence, and our younger generation has lost some fear of this disease because of the success of treatments.

South Africa has the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world and new medications such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEp) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) bring hope and aim to prevent the transmission of HIV.  

Unfortunately this has caused, especially young men who have sex with other men, to engage in risky behaviours, leading to high rates of infection. What does this mean?

A refresher: HIV (a.k.a. human immune deficiency virus) is an incurable virus that attacks our body’s immune system, and it can be passed on through bodily fluids. And once acquired, it is a lifelong infection. There is no cure for this disease but most patients with HIV can still live long, happy lives thanks to antiretroviral therapy treatments.     

However, allow this to sink in: South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world with 7.7 million people living with HIV. Yet, for an illness that’s so prevalent across the globe, a lot of misinformation still exists.

Here are the top 6 myths:

Myth #1: HIV is a death sentence. The days when a HIV diagnosis meant that your lifespan and quality of life were on the chopping block, are a thing of the past. True, there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but with the help of effective and constant treatment, the life expectancy for those who are HIV positive, is now almost completely normal.

Myth #2: Straight people don’t have to worry about HIV. You can get the virus from heterosexual contact with an infected person. Although men who have sex with men account for 70% of new cases, heterosexuals accounted for 24% of new HIV infections in 2016, and about two thirds of those were women.

Myth #3: You could tell if your partner was HIV positive. You can have HIV without having any symptoms for years. During the first few weeks after infection some people might notice common flu symptoms which may include fever, aches and a sore throat. But thereafter patients move into the clinical latency stage, or chronic HIV, which is largely symptom free. The only way for you and your partner to know if you’re positive, is to get tested.

Myth #5: HIV positive people can’t safely have kids. If a woman takes her HIV medications daily as recommended throughout her pregnancy and continues medicine for her baby 4 to 6 weeks after birth, the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby can be as low as 1%.

Myth #6: If you have HIV you have AIDS. AIDS is a term used by doctors to describe the damage done to the immune system by HIV. AIDS can be prevented by early treatment of the HIV infection.

Early detection is key. Be sure to get yourself checked out if you are at risk.

If you are HIV positive, Aid for Aids can help you manage the condition through both clinical and emotional support. Contact them by calling 0860 100 646 or email afa@afadm.co.za.

Source: hivireland.ie, avert.org, webmd.com, healthline.com, alllife.co.za, womanshealthmag.com

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.