Dispelling the myths of HIV and AIDS

On 1 December each year, people around the world unite in the fight against AIDS as they campaign to raise money for the National AIDS Trust.

World AIDS Day takes place on 1 December every year, offering people across the globe the chance to unite against HIV and AIDS.

This important day not only allows people not only to show their support for people living with HIV and AIDS but also to commemorate those who have died from the illness.

World AIDS day was actually the first ever global health day of its kind. It started in 1988.

World AIDS day is a chance to discover the facts about HIV and put that knowledge into action. Finding out the facts will not only help you to keep yourself healthy but also ensure that you treat those living with the disease fairly.

We’re debunking some of the biggest myths surrounding HIV and AIDS as well as sharing some lesser-known known facts about the disease.

What are HIV and AIDS and how do they differ?

HIV and AIDS are related but they are not the same thing.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The virus damages the cells of your immune system, making it harder for you to fight infections and disease.

AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the name given to a number of potentially life-threatening conditions that can develop because HIV has weakened your immune system.

HIV is transmitted from one person to another. AIDS cannot be caught or transmitted.

There is currently no cure for HIV, but there are many effective drug treatments available. Today, if HIV is detected early enough, most people are able to live a long and healthy life.

Contrary to what many people think, most people who are diagnosed with HIV do not develop AIDS and do not have a shortened life expectancy because of it.1

Fact: Around 101,000 people are currently living with HIV in the UK

It is estimated that 101,600 people in the UK are living with HIV.2

This number is less than 1% of the total number around the world, which highlights just how well the UK does to protect against HIV.

Although in the UK we have a relatively low incidence rate, HIV is still a real problem elsewhere in the world.

Historically, HIV is one of the most destructive diseases ever. More than 35 million people have dies from HIV and AIDS-related illnesses since it first emerged.3

Myth: Only homosexual men and drug users can get infected

This myth was born out of the spread of disease across the gay community of Los Angeles in the 1980s. Many people assumed it was only contracted by homosexual men and drug users sharing needles.

This was, and still is, simply not true.

HIV does not discriminate and unprotected sex or sharing needles can put you in danger regardless of your gender or sexuality.

Fact: An estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV worldwide

The World Health Organization estimates that 36.7 million people across the globe are living with HIV.

The vast majority of these people are from middle- and low-income countries.

In many of these places the infection rate is still quite high, so it’s crucial that the important message of awareness is continued.4

Myth: You can only get HIV through sexual contact

The majority of HIV cases are transmitted through sexual contact.

The only way to protect yourself against contracting HIV through sexual contact is to use a condom.

You can also contract the disease through infected needles or syringes and the exchange of certain body fluids.

HIV can be transmitted if you have an open wound that comes into contact with infected bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluids, blood, breast milk and rectal secretions.

However, it is important to remember that HIV cannot be transmitted via day to day contact, kissing, or sharing drinks.1

Fact: Only 1% of babies born to HIV positive mothers in the UK have HIV

Many people assume that if a woman has HIV then their children will be born with the disease automatically. This is not true, although it does happen on very rare occasions.

If you are HIV positive, this does not mean that you cannot have children. There are treatment options available to ensure neither your partner nor your unborn child contract the disease at conception.5

Myth: There are always symptoms

A HIV-positive person can live with the disease for years without showing any signs.

This is why it is important to have only protected sex with a new partner until you get tested and can be sure that their sexual history won’t lead to you becoming infected.

In the UK, 1 in 14 people with HIV don’t know they are infected.6

Fact: You can now get tested using just a saliva sample

A simple saliva test can help to determine whether or not you have contracted HIV. A straightforward kit is delivered to your door with easy-to-follow instructions about how it works.

All you need to do next is send it off and wait for the results which are delivered with complete confidentiality.1

Myth: HIV is an immediate death sentence

While there is no cure to HIV or AIDS, HIV can be treated very effectively.

Since it first spread, there has been an outstanding amount of progress made in this area and HIV treatment is now extremely advanced.

An HIV-positive person can live a normal and active life, and average life expectancy is extremely close to that of an HIV-negative person.1

Visit the World AIDS Day official website to find out more about the disease and how you can get involved to help raise awareness.

If you have any questions about HIV/AIDS then you can make an enquiry with our Sexual Medicine department.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337

or make an online enquiry.

1https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiv-and-aids/
2https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/western-central-europe-north-america/uk
3https://www.who.int/gho/hiv/en/
4https://www.who.int/features/factfiles/hiv/facts/en/index3.html
5https://www.tht.org.uk/hiv-and-sexual-health/being-diagnosed-hiv/born-hiv
6https://www.nat.org.uk/we-inform/HIV-statistics/UK-statistics

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