Common HIV Myths
As a public health worker and advocate, I have dealt with a lot of myths surrounding HIV. Unfortunately, some of these are more common than most and are the hardest to dispel.
HIV is not a gay disease
The most common I have to deal with is that HIV is a "gay disease". This is one of the most frustrating things to hear. Time and time again, facts about HIV transmission are skewed, based on past or false knowledge.
One of the most damaging myths to prevention efforts is for people to think that HIV has no chance to affect them and therefore don’t get tested. It’s HUMAN Immunodeficiency Virus, not “Specific Human” Immunodeficiency Virus.
Just because you are not a “priority population” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get tested. Everyone should get tested and know their status. HIV can affect anyone, and it’s going to take everyone to end it.
When doctors don't talk about U=U
Now, a frustrating one for me is when providers won’t talk about undetectable=untransmittable (U=U) because they either don’t believe the science or feel that their patients will use it as an excuse to not take their meds.
U=U is science and here to stay
First of all, U=U has been known since around 2016. It’s even been added to HIV treatment guidelines. The time for excuses is past; U=U is science and here to stay.
Also, if you honestly believe that U=U will be used as an excuse for your patients to not take their meds, what have you been telling them? U=U is a fantastic reason to STAY on medication because you need to remain on treatment to maintain your U=U status.
AIDS is not the end
Finally, the myth behind AIDS is that there is no turning back. HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence and hasn’t been for a very long time.
The main thing that I want to touch on is that AIDS is not the end. It is entirely possible to have an AIDS diagnosis, start/restart medications, and have a full recovery. I have even done so myself.
The more we teach people that HIV/AIDS is a manageable condition, the sooner we can make people realize that there is good reason to get into care and stay in care. People living with HIV have the potential for amazingly long and healthy lives, all it takes is keeping up with your meds and your general health.
There is hope with HIV
In closing, I do actually have one more myth to bust. It is important to remember that with HIV, there is hope. Hope for better health, hope for an end to stigma, hope for a vaccine, hope for a cure.
We need to stay ever vigilant and to remember that no matter how dark times get with HIV, there is a ray of hope to push the darkness back. Just look at all the progress we have made.
Educate yourselves on the accomplishments of science and advocates and know that there is still more to do and that will be done.
We can all work to end the epidemic, but it will only happen through knowledge and understanding. We can and will see a brighter tomorrow.
How often does someone offer you unsolicited advice on your health?