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HIV: Facts and Fiction

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It has been the subject of many rumours over the years and it can be hard to decipher the truth from the nonsense. Find out what everyone should know about HIV. It’s time to separate the facts from the fiction about HIV.

Myth: You can get HIV if you kiss someone with HIV or drink from their glass.

Fact: It is only spread through blood or unsafe sex so you can safely hug or kiss a patient or take a bite of their sandwich. It’s also impossible to get it from a sneeze or a cough, or from sitting on a dirty toilet seat.

Myth: If you have HIV, you will die

Fact: In the past, it was indeed a deadly disease. The virus destroyed the immune system until you eventually developed AIDS and died from the consequences. Nowadays, there are effective medications that stop the virus. It can not be cured but is now regarded as a chronic disease, which allows you to have a normal life expectancy if you take the medicine.

Myth: You can only get it if you have sex without a condom

Fact: A condom does offer protection against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, but only if it is properly used and does not tear. A condom never offers 100% protection against HIV. Moreover, you can also contract it through unprotected oral sex or blood, for example, through the use of contaminated needles or razors.

Myth: Pregnant women with it will infect their unborn child

Fact: In a normal pregnancy, the virus cannot pass from mother to child during the first 28 weeks. After that, the risk increases, especially during childbirth. HIV-inhibiting drugs prevent it from being passed on to the child during pregnancy or childbirth. Women who have not yet used HIV inhibitors are prescribed medication from the 24th week. In the Netherlands, every pregnant woman receives an HIV test at the first check.

Myth: Women with it can breastfeed.

Fact: Breast milk contains quite a lot of cells with the HIV virus. Therefore breastfeeding is explicitly discouraged and HIV-positive mothers are advised to bottle feed their babies.

Myth: It can be eliminated with medications

Fact: The virus never disappears from your body and will always be active if you do not take medication. Therefore, you must use HIV inhibitors for the rest of your life to prevent you from becoming seriously ill.

Myth: If you are taking anti-HIV drugs, you aren’t contagious

Fact: If medication is successful, the HIV virus is no longer measurable in the blood. You can no longer transfer the virus to anyone. However, the medication only works if it is taken rigorously. It’s also really important to attend regular check-ups with your doctor to make sure that the virus remains dormant. Remember that sex without a condom is never a good idea: you could be at risk of catching many other STD s.

Fact: Over the last 10 years, the number of people accessing specialist care for HIV has steadily grown. Over the decade 2006 to 2015, there has been a 73% increase in the number of people accessing HIV care.


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