Medical Perspectives | Others

September 20, 2020



Believing that information is integral to staying healthy and well, especially for diseases like HIV/AIDS, whose awareness levels have given rise to much talk and at times, many untruths. We take a look at how HIV is transmitted, separating myth from truth.

 

Much study and research have been made to determine how HIV is passed from person to person.

 

Fact #1: The HIV virus is transmitted through body fluids like blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk. These must “come in contact with a mucous membrane or be directly injected into the bloodstream” for the transmission to happen.[1]

 

According to HIV.gov, an online portal whose main objectives include “increasing knowledge about HIV”, specific activities are the means by which a person gets HIV.

 

Fact #2: Having sex without using protection such as a condom is one of the most common ways that HIV is spread.[2]

 

Fact #3: Using needles, syringes or other equipment used to prepare injections for HIV affected person is another means by which HIV has been spread.[3] HIV can survive on a needle for 42 days maximum, this is why sharing needles or reusing them are discouraged.[4]

 

Fact #4: Mothers with HIV can affect their children, during pregnancy, childbirth or while breastfeeding. This is also called perinatal transmission.[5]

 

Fact #5: Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex for HIV transmission. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website explains that the thin lining in the rectal area may allow the HIV virus to enter the body in this type of sexual activity.[6]

 

On the other hand, there are many myths or rumors that have circulated about HIV transmission. Some of the most common myths include:

 

Myth #1: Touching a person with HIV can give you HIV.[7] No need to avoid physical contact such as shaking hands or hugging, this will NOT result in the transmittal of the HIV virus, as no body fluids are involved.

 

Myth #2: Insects and animals can transmit HIV. It is not possible for a mosquito or other insect to bite a person with HIV and then reinject the blood back into another person’s body. In addition, HIV only affects humans, so animals cannot contract HIV.[8]

 

Myth #3: HIV can come from infected water. The fact is the HIV virus does not survive in water, so the virus cannot be contracted from swimming, drinking, bathing or other water activities. [9]

 

Myth #4: Tears, saliva or sweat of an HIV-affected person can be infectious. This is another false belief, as these bodily fluids are NOT infectious and cannot transmit the HIV virus.[10]

 

Myth #5: Sharing toilets, food or drinks with HIV-affected persons can be cause for infection. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that HIV is not transmitted in this manner.[11]

 

These facts and myths are from the collected data on HIV and AIDS cases over the years. Progress in treatment and prevention have been able to bring down the number of cases significantly, since it peaked in 2004.[12] Helping people understand the disease, and sharing information is a critical component in further preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

 

[1] HIV.org. [2017, May]. How is HIV Transmitted? Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/how-is-hiv-transmitted

 

[2] HIV.org. [2017, May]. How is HIV Transmitted? Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/how-is-hiv-transmitted

 

[3] HIV.org. [2017, May]. How is HIV Transmitted? Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/how-is-hiv-transmitted

 

[4] Nall, R. [2018, November]. HIV and AIDS: Transmission myths and facts. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323832.php

 

[5] AIDS Info. [2019, April]. Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV. Retrieved from https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/understanding-hiv-aids/fact-sheets/20/50/preventing-mother-to-child-transmission-of-hiv

 

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [2018, October]. HIV Transmission. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/transmission.html

 

[7] Nall, R. [2018, November]. HIV and AIDS: Transmission myths and facts. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323832.php

 

[8] Nall, R. [2018, November]. HIV and AIDS: Transmission myths and facts. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323832.php

 

[9] Nall, R. [2018, November]. HIV and AIDS: Transmission myths and facts. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323832.php

 

[10] San Francisco Aids Foundation. [n.d.]. How is HIV/AIDS transmitted? Retrieved from http://sfaf.org/hiv-info/basics/how-is-hiv-transmitted.html

 

[11] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [2018, October]. HIV Transmission. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/transmission.html

 

[12] HIV.gov. [2018, November]. Global Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/global-statistics

 

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