4 common myths about HIV

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, believing myths related to the spread of HIV helps propagate the already extensive virus.

  1. HIV/AIDS can only be contracted if I am a homosexual or use IV drugs.

    “Heterosexual couples can get (HIV/AIDS) just like homosexuals can, just like IV drug users can,” said Judy Lyle, interim associate director of Health Services.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control, 32 percent of the more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. infected by HIV are heterosexual.

    She said the level of risk for HIV varies from person to person based on what sexual activities they engage in and the level of risk of that activity.

  2. HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through saliva, casual contact or by being in the vicinity of someone infected.

    “You hear all sorts of things about how HIV is transmitted: through tears, mosquito bites, hugging, touching or kissing,” Lyle said. “But primarily HIV is transmitted through blood and semen.”

    As listed on aids.gov website, the five ways through which a person can contract HIV are sexual contact, either vaginal, anal or oral sex, during pregnancy, childbirth or by breastfeeding, as a result of injection drug use, as a result of occupational exposure or, rarely, as the result of a blood transfusion or organ transplant.

  3. You can tell if someone has HIV/AIDS.

    Lyle said people are quick to stereotype those who are in risk of infection of HIV, like homosexuals, but in a line-up of 100 people, you would not be able to say who has HIV and who does not.

    She said there may not be any initial symptoms of HIV, and that an infected person can go years, even decades, before their HIV converts into AIDS.

    In a 2009 study by the CDC, it was estimated that one in six of HIV-infected individuals in the U.S. are unaware of being infected.

  4. Contracting HIV/AIDS is a death sentence.

    While there is still no cure for HIV or AIDS, there have been many advances in antiretroviral treatment, which while not curing HIV, can prolong the amount of time it takes the virus to convert into AIDs.

    “It used to be that having AIDS was a death sentence because people would progress very rapidly from HIV into the disease state,” Lyle said. “This is not so much true anymore.”

    A 2010 HIV surveillance report conducted by the CDC found that in that year alone 15,529 people with AIDs died adding to the approximately 636,000 people who have died from AIDs in the U.S. since 1981.