People are under a number of misconceptions as regards AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, so the best approach would be to gain more factual information on this malady rather than try and bust the myths.
The most Common Misunderstanding Begins with the Synonyms ‘AIDS’ And “HIV” Itself!
It is totally false to say that if someone is infected by the Human immunodeficiency virus or the HIV virus, the person has AIDS. The fact is that the HIV virus is the main cause of the syndrome but a person is clinically said to be suffering from the syndrome only if the individuals’ CD4 (or T cells) count drops below 200.
The case is further aggravated if the sufferer has other chronic ailment such as cancer. What it means is that the HIV virus mainly targets the CD4 cells in the human body and the number of these cells decrease with the progression of the HIV syndrome. In fact, an individual can be inflicted by the HIV virus for years without contracting the symptoms of AIDS.
HIV and AIDS is a Sub-Saharan African Problem
Unfortunately this is the biggest myth ever. It has been stated that sub –Saharan Africa constitute about 70 per cent of AIDS victims but has spread because of Western colonial policies.
But, the onset of the disease is now spreading across continents which are afflicted by poverty, inequality and political conflict regarding policies to eradicate the malady from the system. Today, AIDS has found substantial numbers in Europe, Central Asia, Caribbean and Latin America among others.
In fact recent news reports point out that in the US, a 2011 report card that ranks city’s services for detecting and surveying people with AIDS showed that there are some 7000 sufferers of AIDS in New Orleans alone! Three percent of the populace in Washington too have been diagnosed with the infection; with two to three percent more estimated to be living with HIV which is perhaps remains undiagnosed.
Death and HIV
HIV patients panic when told about the infection and they lose hope saying that death is instant. This is not true at all as advancements in medicine and treatment programmes in phases have enabled better understanding of the syndrome. This has led to positive approach in treatment screening and choice of medicament enabling individuals to lead possible normal lives. Many a time patients do live healthy and meaningful lives.
Longevity and HIV Cure
Drugs that treat HIV are called antiretroviral drugs which can help people in managing their treatment against HIV. Although these drugs have helped patients to extend their life span, the maintenance therapy becomes complicated. People might have to take more than one type of drug to treat this syndrome. Also, these drugs are very expensive and can add to serious side effects. Since there is no 100% cure, a patient may experience various debilitating situations that could weaken a person’s immune system in the long run. All this depends on the patient’s socio economic and geographic boundaries as well.
Treatment and Spread of HIV
Patients under HIV treatment strongly believe that while they are safe using antiretroviral drugs, it can also shield them from spreading the disease.
The fact is that continuous therapy does lower the count of the affected CD4 cells. The CD4 test therefore throws up a lower blood count of these cells. But, the virus might actually be hiding in other areas of the body.
Blood Donation and HIV
People are suspicious of blood collected at camps and through private blood banks. Blood testing and screening procedures have become very stringent when selecting donors; care is also taken to ensure blood for healthy individuals. It would therefore be safe to use blood from known blood repositories such as the International Red Cross.
Also, it is equally important to donate blood via known international health organisations. These organisations use pre-packaged, sterile and disposable needles which minimizes the risk of contracting HIV from infected patients (who may or may not know about the onset of their ailment).
Sex and HIV
The most common myth surrounding sex and HIV is that if both partners are infected, they need not practice safe sex. This is a myth because in the long run, practicing safe sex can protect the couple from other strains of the virus that may be drug resistant.
HIV Cannot be Transmitted by Women to Men
Although it is a bit difficult for men to get infected by women, women can inflict the disease if she has sexually transmitted disease that has been left untreated such as Chlamydia, syphilis or gonorrhoea. CD4 cells surface at the infected areas or they can break out onto the partner’s skin on contact, increasing the risk of transmitting HIV.
Pregnancy and HIV
Although a pregnant woman is known to transmit the HIV virus to her baby either during pregnancy, labour, delivery or during breast feeding, certain interventions could minimize such occurrences. In untreated women, babies will get HIV positive; so treatment is a must.
Especially, women who are aware that either she or her partner is HIV positive should find out intervention methods even before the baby is conceived in order to protect the unborn baby!
HIV and Teenagers
Young adults believe that HIV and AIDS is an adult problem. But, data shows that globally AIDS is the second most common cause of death among young adults who are under 25. It has been reported that 2.5 million people under 15 years suffered from HIV in 2009. It therefore becomes important for sexually active young adults to understand this malady and practice safe sex, if at all.
Only Promiscuous People Contract HIV
The social stigma as regards AIDS and HIV still continue. Just as STD’s are prevalent in all strata of society, its linkage to HIV could lead to a higher degree of infection if it remains undetected. Also, those who are marginalised by society suffer the most and get stigmatized which goes beyond the myth. AIDS and HIV do not follow moral grounds and can happen to anyone if health checks are not taken from time to time!
Beware of misconceptions and be wary of social taboos which could in fact marginalise those who actually get inflicted by the AIDS syndrome – Educate yourself!