HIV is one of the least welcomed acronyms in the world (falling behind, of course, AIDS, and even less-welcomed acronym in our lives.) But lately, its been all over the headlines lately as actor Charlie Sheen came out with the disease, condom-makers are pushing for them to invent a safe-sex emoji and the whole world continues to pray to find a cure.
In honor of World AIDS Day 2015, I want to debunk some of the heavily perpetuated myths about HIV. Nurses, use this information to help your patients better understand this high-profile global epidemic. When you stop to think that there are about 35 million people living with HIV, it’s definitely a topic worth discussing.
Myth: If you have HIV, you don’t need drug treatments until you begin to show signs of illness.
Truth: The World Health Organization (WHO) urges all people infected with HIV to begin treatments as soon as possible. The antiretroviral therapy (ART), involves daily drugs to keep the virus at bay. There’s a massive impact on a person’s health if they start the treatment early. Plus, those who respond well to their medications are 96% less likely to pass HIV to their sexual partners.
Myth: HIV-infected pregnant mothers will always pass the disease to their baby.
Truth: According to professor Salim Abdool Karim of the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa, there’s only 25-33% chance of birthing a baby with the disease even if you aren’t actively receiving treatment. However, it is highly recommended that you use PrEP drugs to help protect/prevent a mother to child HIV transmission. It brings the risk down to below 1%.
Myth: HIV isn’t a big deal anymore.
Truth: For some reason, a lot of people have this idea that HIV is a probably of yesteryear. Sure, there have been major advances in treatments in recent decades. However, it’s still a massive problem when you consider that there were 1.2 million AIDS deaths last year. Worse (and far more shocking, in my opinion, to hear) is that 600 children a day are infected with HIV! That’s not okay. Instead of feeling empathetic towards HIV, we still need to constantly educate and provide programs to work towards completely preventing it.
Myth: You can’t contract HIV from piercings or tattoos.
Truth: Since HIV gets transmitted through blood, you can theoretically get HIV from infected tools. Junkies aren’t the only types of people who could possibly share dirty needles. The CDC warns that any tool used to cut the skin should be thrown away or sterilized after one use. Be weary about getting any metal in your body or new art on your flesh unless you know that you’re getting a clean tool every time.
Myth: HIV might as well be the nail in your coffin.
Truth: There may still not be a cure for HIV. But, the quality of drugs has improved in substantial ways over the years. Modern ART can reduce the amount of HIV in your blood making the infection stop progressing as quickly. This can protect your immune system and essentially leave people relatively healthy.
Myth: HIV always turns into AIDS.
Truth: HIV-infected individuals can live out their entire lives without contracting AIDS. AIDS is, after all, the final stage of the disease and when your body’s immune system is already damaged. HIV is the cause of AIDS…but it definitely doesn’t ever need to evolve into it.