Distinguishing Myths and Facts Around HIV/AIDS

Although it has been almost 40 years since this disease was first discovered, there are still many myths about HIV/AIDS circulating in the community and need to be corrected. By knowing the facts behind these myths, we can be wiser in dealing with this disease.

The HIV virus attacks lymphocytes and macrophage cells in the human body. These two types of cells function as body defenses. When both are damaged by infection with the HIV virus, the body's immune system will become very weak, so bacteria, fungi, and other viruses can easily attack.

HIV Not necessarily AIDS?

At first, people with HIV do not show specific symptoms. Early symptoms of HIV can include a low-grade fever, skin rash, joint pain, and enlarged lymph nodes. After that, people with HIV usually do not show any symptoms until their immune system becomes very weak.

A serious condition in which a person who has been infected with HIV begins to experience various infectious diseases due to a weakened immune system called AIDS (AIDS).acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

If people with HIV do not undergo treatment, HIV infection can progress to AIDS within 10-15 years. People with AIDS usually experience significant weight loss, prolonged fever and diarrhea, and other symptoms of severe infection.

False Myths about HIV/AIDS

There are so many myths about HIV/AIDS that are not entirely true, even very wrong. This can cause HIV/AIDS prevention to be less effective, and make sufferers feel bad stigma and ostracized.

Some of the false myths circulating in the community about HIV/AIDS are:

1. A person can be infected with the HIV virus if they are close to people with HIV/AIDS

In fact, the HIV virus is not transmitted just because someone is in close proximity or breathes in the same room as someone with HIV/AIDS.

The HIV virus is not transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, for example when shaking hands or hugging; through splashes of saliva, for example when the patient sneezes or coughs; or through sweat. The HIV virus is also not transmitted through swimming pools, public toilets, eating utensils, or mosquito bites.

The HIV virus is only transmitted through unprotected sex, blood (usually from sharing needles), and breast milk. Transmission of HIV/AIDS from mother to baby can occur during pregnancy, childbirth, or while breastfeeding.

2. Oral sex does not spread the HIV virus

Oral sex has a lower chance of spreading the HIV virus than anal or vaginal sex. However, oral sex that is not protected by a condom is still a risk of transmitting the HIV virus. The risk of transmission will increase if the oral sex offender has sores or thrush in the mouth, or if the recipient of oral sex has sores on the genitals.

3. Heterosexual couples don't have to worry about HIV transmission

Anal sex between homosexual men does have the highest risk of transmitting the HIV virus. However, that does not mean heterosexual couples are not at risk of contracting HIV through sex. Unprotected sex can still transmit the HIV virus. The risk of this transmission increases if one of the partners has another sexually transmitted infection.

4. HIV is a death sentence and people with HIV will definitely get AIDS

Currently there is no drug that can completely kill the HIV virus. However, there are already several antiretroviral drugs that can slow the replication (reproduction) of the HIV virus.

HIV patients who routinely undergo treatment have the amount of virus (viral load) are very low and even no longer detectable in the blood. The less the number of viruses, the better the resistance of the sufferer's body. People with HIV who regularly undergo treatment can lead healthy lives for a long time and do not develop AIDS.

5. People with HIV cannot have children

If a man has HIV but regularly undergoes treatment until viral load in the blood is very low, then the risk of the man to transmit HIV to his wife and children is also very low or close to zero.

The same is true for women who have the HIV virus. Regular use of antiretroviral drugs can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to the baby while the woman is giving birth or breastfeeding.

6. People who have a negative HIV test result can have sex without protection

The HIV test works by detecting special antibodies produced by white blood cells to fight the HIV virus. If a person's HIV test result is negative, it means that he or she does not have antibodies against HIV. However, that does not mean the person definitely does not have the HIV virus.

Sometimes it takes 1-3 months before the HIV antibodies produced by the body can be detected. Therefore, the use of condoms when having sex is still recommended to avoid transmitting the HIV virus from people whose HIV test results are negative even though.

7. People who do not experience symptoms of HIV / AIDS do not have the HIV virus

As previously explained, the HIV virus can infect a person without causing symptoms for 10-15 years. People who do not have any signs or symptoms do not necessarily have the HIV virus in their bodies.

8. If both partners are HIV positive, then there is no need to use a condom during sex

Even though both parties share the HIV virus, the use of condoms during sex is still recommended to prevent transmission of different types of HIV virus (strain) or who are resistant to antiretroviral drugs.

That is the fact behind the various myths of HIV/AIDS which are false. There are two important things you need to remember. First, the HIV virus is only transmitted through unprotected sex, blood, or breast milk. So, people infected with HIV can still move and interact with other people as usual.

Second, not experiencing any symptoms does not mean that you are not infected with the HIV virus. Consult a doctor for an HIV test, especially if you are at risk of contracting this virus, for example by having unprotected sex or using someone else's used syringe.

Third, HIV infection can be controlled by taking antiretroviral drugs regularly, so that the disease does not develop into AIDS. Therefore, if you experience HIV infection, do not hesitate to consult further with your doctor to get treatment.

Written by:

dr. Irene Cindy Sunur