What is AIDS? The Myths and Misconceptions | cannabisMD

What is AIDS? Dispelling the Myths and Misconceptions

AIDS HIV

It’s an important question to answer because, over the last 3 decades, commonly held misconceptions about AIDS have caused people to contract the virus. But fear not, we’re here to help you dispel the rumors and get to the facts about what AIDS is, and isn’t. HIV can destroy so many of these cells that it lowers the body’s ability to fight off infections and disease. This opens the door for cancers and infections to take advantage of the newly weakened immune system.

There is currently no effective cure, but there are medical treatments that control HIV called antiretroviral therapy or ART. If taken correctly, this medicine can significantly improve and prolong the lives of those living with the virus. It used to be that the word AIDS was synonymous with death, but today, someone who’s diagnosed with the illness can live almost as long as someone who does not have HIV.

The First Myth Concerning HIV

Contract HIV and AIDS from being around other people who are HIV-positive isn’t all that true. This myth is more common than you would think and it couldn’t be further from the truth. HIV can’t be contracted through touch, tears, sweat, saliva, or pee. However, HIV can spread from person to person through

  • Semen
  • Breast milk
  • Vaginal secretions
  • Blood

These are the only proven ways that HIV can be contracted, meaning you cannot get the virus through kissing, hugging, drinking from the same water fountain, sharing utensils, or sitting on the same toilet seat as someone with HIV.

The Second Myth Concerning HIV

It is often believed that you can’t get HIV from oral sex. This commonly-held belief is one of the most dangerous for contracting HIV. While it’s true that oral sex is less risky than other types of sex, it is still very possible to contract HIV this way. Several factors will increase that risk including open sores in the mouth, bleeding gums, and the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases. If you’d rather be safe than sorry, always use a latex barrier during the act of oral sex.

The Third Myth Concerning HIV

Many believe that once someone has HIV, that they no longer have a good quality of life. That may have been true in the early years when the epidemic was taking lives at an alarming rate, but today’s treatments and medications allow those living with HIV and AIDS to lead lives that are normal, productive and long.

Ever heard of Magic Johnson? Everyone was shocked when they heard the news that the Los Angeles Lakers point guard had contracted HIV, many were sure that he had just signed his own death sentence. But 25 years late, the now-57-year-old is as strong as ever. Spencer Lieb, senior epidemiologist and HIV/AIDS research coordinator for the Florida Consortium for HIV/AIDS Research says, “There are still people alive and kicking and doing very well 20 and 30 years after infection.”

Lieb said that just in the state of Florida, hundreds of patients have continued to lead their lives after becoming infected with HIV in the early 1980s when the first confirmed AIDS cases turned up in the United States. The virus is still a pervasive issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 1.2 million Americans have HIV, and 20 percent of them are undiagnosed. Approximately 50,000 people become infected each year, and more than 18,000 die annually.

The Fourth Myth Concerning HIV

Its often said that you can contract HIV from mosquitoes. This is merely believed due to the virus is passed through blood, they can get infected by mosquitoes and other biting or blood-sucking insects. But according to a study by scientists collaborating with the National Cancer Institute has concluded that although mosquitoes can carry the AIDS virus in their bodies for two or three days after consuming infected blood. The prestigious Dr. Robert C. Gallo, who was involved with the study, found no evidence that the virus can multiply inside mosquitoes or that mosquitos are capable of carrying the virus.

The Fifth Myth Concerning HIV

It’s true that in the past, most men contracted the virus through sexual contact with other men, but the fact is that HIV rates continue to rise among heterosexuals and that’s how 1 in 6 men and 3 in 4 women get infected. According to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, people who have multiple sexual partners are at the highest risk. So please practice safe sex, get tested and ask your partner to get tested too.

Now that you know a little more about AIDS, you can learn how to protect yourself even further with the CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool or if you want to help out by donating your time or money, many wonderful organizations are fighting tirelessly against the AIDS crisis.

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