It has been five decades since the first HIV case was detected and even now the fear of the disease persists. Unfortunately, over time there have been many rumours that were spread, which continue to impact the lives of HIV patients. Here are a few myths debunked over the years:
Myth: “I cannot get HIV.”
Fact: This is a leading reason why people with HIV go undetected for a long time. Expanding testing gets people into care earlier and improves life. No one is exempted from this risk, and this includes people in committed relationships.
Myth: Only young people get HIV.
Fact: Not true. We now see a lot of older adults above the age of 60 being diagnosed for the first time. They too respond well to the advanced treatment.
Myth: HIV is a punishment.
Fact: Well, due to the advanced medication, people with HIV are now living close to a normal life than those with diabetes today and are facing very few long-term problems.
Myth: HIV infection means AIDS/death.
Fact: This is one fear-inducing issue that has changed the most over time. Due to the advanced treatment, the life expectancy of an HIV person has increased dramatically. In fact, threats to their health is from other problems like diabetes and kidney ailments.
Myth: You can spot an HIV infected person anywhere.
Fact: No, you cannot. They are humans, no different from any of us. In fact, since there are more frequent tests performed to detect patients early and they also do respond well to the treatment, it is impossible to identify an HIV infected patient without testing.
Myth: HIV positive people should not marry or should marry only HIV infected.
Fact: Incorrect. With the advent of good treatment and full viral control, we now know that there is no transmission of HIV. However, the relationship should be honest and safe.
Myth: HIV positive people should not have children.
Fact: Before the arrival of advanced treatment, women with HIV infection were advised to terminate their pregnancy due to the fear of mother-to-child transmission of the disease, however, now, with sufficient medical help an HIV infected woman can deliver a normal uninfected baby.
Myth: HIV infected people cannot have organ transplants.
Fact: Nearly 8-10 years ago, organ transplant was not permitted for people with HIV; in fact, in some places, it was considered a criminal offence. However, now we routinely offer organ transplants to HIV infected patients, and they do just as well as others.
Myths: We have treatment, so HIV is no big deal.
Fact: Being safe in relationships is still imperative.
Myth: I tested negative, so I am ok.
Fact: The test cannot identify infection that happened recently, so testing a few days after high-risk behaviour does not prove safety. It is always better to indulge in safe intercourse and adopt all precautionary measures to avoid any form of transmission of the disease.
(The author is director of a healthcare facility specialising in infectious diseases.)