There is a lot of false information floating around about HIV, which can make people pretty worried about it or pretty complacent about whether they should get tested. Let’s bust some HIV myths and increase education around this sexually transmitted infection!
Myth #1 -“If you have HIV you will get AIDS”
This is probably the most common misunderstanding we hear in our sex and relationships education sessions in schools and colleges. First we need to understand the difference between HIV and AIDS; HIV is the virus and AIDS is the name of a stage of your health after the virus has significantly damaged your immune system. Most people living with HIV today won’t get AIDS thanks to advances in treatment.
Myth #2 - “If you’re HIV positive you will never be able to have sex without a condom”
People who are on effective treatment for HIV can’t pass on the virus. This means that if you’re HIV positive and you’re taking your medication as recommended by your healthcare professional you can’t pass on the infection because the levels of it are so low in your blood. The important thing here is that you must be on effective treatment – the healthcare professional you see will be able to advise you if your treatment is working as it should be.
Myth #3 - “Testing for HIV is painful”
Testing has never been easier – if you take a test with us it’s just a quick fingerprick and you get your results in 20 minutes! Take a look at our demo video to see a run through of what to expect when you see us for a test. See when our HIV testing drop-ins are at 20mintesting.co.uk
Myth #4 - “If I had HIV I’d know about it”
About 80% of people infected with HIV experience a short, flu-like illness (fever, sore throat, body rash) a few after infection. But “80%” statistic means that the other 20%, or 1 in 5, won’t have any symptoms at all. Even for those who do have the flu-like illness, after it passes, HIV may not cause any other symptoms for several years, meaning it goes undiagnosed and can start to damage your body.
Myth #5 - “If you’re HIV positive you will die earlier”
This myth was actually true but due to the fact that treatment is now fantastic, the most recent statistics show that people living with HIV have a life expectancy pretty much the same as people who haven’t got it.
Myth #6 - “HIV can be passed by toilet seats/sharing towels/hot tubs”
The virus can’t survive outside of the body for long so it can’t be spread by things like toilet seats, towels, hot tubs, glasses or cutlery.
The only ways HIV can be spread is:
anal or vaginal sex without a condom (also oral sex but this is rare)
sharing sex toys
contaminated blood coming into contact with the genitals, mouth, eyes or an open sore/wound
from mother to child during pregnancy/birth/breastfeeding
Find out more about HIV transmission here.
Myth #7 - “If you have HIV you can’t have a baby”
Transmissions from mother to child are now extremely rare in the UK (below 1%) because of medical interventions and excellent treatment. It’s important to know your HIV status to reduce the chance of passing the infection on to your child; all pregnant people in the UK are tested for HIV but it’s best to know your status as before you get pregnant to make sure you are on effective treatment if you’re HIV positive.
Myth #8 - “People living with HIV must have slept around”
Sex is just one way that HIV is spread but not everyone who has HIV has even had sex. Some people with HIV may have had sex once, with a long term partner and have caught it from that one time. Some people may be HIV positive because their mother passed it onto them when breastfeeding. It’s important to not judge people or make assumptions about them based on their HIV status.