World AIDS Day: Fact vs. Fiction

World AIDS Day: Fact vs. Fiction

By Nicholas Persaud


Fact: A patient is diagnosed with AIDS after having been diagnosed with HIV.

HIV targets and destroys CD4 cells, more commonly known as T-cells. These cells are extremely important to the immune system, and a patient is diagnosed with AIDS after the number of CD4 cells has dropped below 200.

Fiction: A person can contract the HIV virus by sharing food or a drink with a person who is HIV positive

HIV is only spread through bodily fluids. Blood, semen, breast milk, vaginal fluids, pre-seminal fluid, and rectal fluids are the only means by which HIV can be transmitted. HIV is not transmitted by coming in contact with or sharing food or drinks with a person who is HIV positive. High-risk behaviors include intercourse and sharing needles or syringes with someone who is HIV positive.


Fact: A mother who is HIV positive can infect her child

It is highly possible for a mother to infect her child before birth, and this is how most children in the United States are infected with the virus. However, there are many safety precautions that can be taken by the mother during pregnancy to prevent transmission. For example, the mother can take HIV medication to prevent transmission. It is also possible for the child to be infected during the delivery process, but doctors can avoid this through alternative methods of delivery such as cesarean delivery.


Fiction: Mosquitoes spread HIV

There is no conclusive scientific evidence that mosquitoes spread HIV. Physiologically, it is impossible for mosquitoes to transmit HIV to humans: HIV can’t replicate within the mosquito because there are no T-cells in its gut where it stores the blood it has gathered. HIV will disintegrate within the gut of the mosquito. In addition, a mosquito’s complex proboscis is comprised of six parts that prevent blood the insect’s blood from being transferred to the animals from which it feeds: four of the six proboscis sections are used to penetrate the skin, one tube brings blood up to the mosquito from its target, and another excretes saliva.


Fact: HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system

As noted above, HIV lowers the number of T-cells, which are vital to the immune system. Once an individual’s CD4 count falls below 200, their immune system is so weak even the common cold would be lethal. In other words, HIV/AIDS does not directly kill the person it has infected, but it makes them extremely vulnerable to illnesses.


Fiction: HIV can only be spread and contracted by homosexuals

Sexual orientation does not determine who can contract or spread the virus. Both heterosexual and homosexual individuals can spread HIV. In addition, intercourse is far from the only way by which the virus can be spread.


Fact: As of right now, there is no cure for HIV

Currently, there are only treatments for HIV and AIDS. There is no known cure or vaccine for the disease.


Fiction: Once someone is diagnosed with HIV there is no hope for survival

There are many people who have been living with HIV for many years. For example, in 1991 Magic Johnson announced publicly that he had been diagnosed with HIV. It is currently 2016, and Johnson is alive and well at 57 years of age. There exists an abundant amount of medication that can help prevent HIV from transitioning into its final stage, AIDS. With proper treatment a person can live with HIV for a long period of time. However, if a person is diagnosed with AIDS the damage is considerably more severe. This is why it is very important to get tested for HIV; if someone has HIV and it is detected at an early stage, it can be treated before that person is diagnosed with AIDS.


Fact: The number of HIV/AIDS related deaths is decreasing

Over the years the number of deaths caused by HIV/AIDS has decreased immensely. This is a result of advancing treatment and medication. Nonetheless, many people are still dying because not enough are getting the treatment or medication that they require. While it is true that we have made progress, we still have a long way to go.


Fiction: I can tell if I HIV/AIDS or if my partner has HIV/AIDS

HIV symptoms are very much like the flu. Common symptoms include fever, fatigue, and vomiting. After some time, these symptoms will usually subside. Many people will assume that these symptoms are a result of the flu or the common cold, and so many will not get themselves tested. It is extremely important to get tested for HIV because it is almost impossible to detect it through its symptoms alone. Once the symptoms start to become severe, the virus has most likely reached its final stages.

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