The Low-Down on Common HIV Myths

In our previous post, we busted a few of the most common STD myths. This time around, we will be zeroing in on HIV as we reveal the truth behind some of the most common misconceptions. Here are the facts you need to know about the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Myth: My partner tested negative for HIV. This means we’re clear and are safe to have unprotected sex.

An HIV test typically detects the presence of antibodies when HIV infects the body, however, it takes about three weeks window for there to be enough antibodies for detection. To be considered HIV-free, the individual would have to another HIV test THREE months after the first test. In the meantime, he or she should avoid risky sexual activities until a negative result is given.

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Myth: There is no need to use a condom during sexual contact if both partners are HIV-positive.

Both partners should continue using condoms to avoid becoming infected with different types of strains of HIV. If re-infected with a different strain, treatment of HIV can become complicated causing the current treatment option to be ineffective.

Myth: Once someone has HIV, they can receive medication, but will still spread the virus.

Antiretroviral treatment reduces the viral load, and if someone is consistent with their medication, it can reduce the load so far as to make HIV undetectable in the system. If HIV is undetectable, it cannot be transmitted. However, medication needs to be maintained in order for an undetectable status to be retained.

Myth: Faithful and loving partners do not spread HIV.

The only way to tell if you or your partner is HIV-negative is to get a tested. Blood transfusions, sharing of needles, and previous sexual experiences should all be considered before engaging in unprotected sex.

Myth: HIV cannot be transmitted during oral sex.

HIV can be transmitted by oral sex through the exchange of bodily fluids (semen, vaginal fluid, blood, or pre-ejaculate fluids). Open wounds can allow the transmission of HIV, so it is advisable to use condoms or dental dams when engaging in oral sex.

Myth: HIV can be spread through kissing, hugging, mosquito bites and sharing utensils.

HIV can only be transmitted through bodily fluids such as semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, blood or pre-ejaculate fluids. Even though some claim that HIV can be found in saliva, it isn’t enough to infect anyone with the virus. Also, HIV does not survive in insects, so it cannot be transmitted via mosquitoes.

Myth: HIV can be cured.

To date, there has been no evidence of an HIV cure; however, antiretroviral treatments are available and, if medication is continued on a regular basis, it can make the HIV undetectable. If it’s undetectable, it cannot be transmitted, however rigorous maintenance of medication must be maintained to retain the undetectable status.

Myth: Women can’t give men HIV.

Although it is much harder for a man to contract HIV from a woman, it does still happen. A man’s penis would only be exposed to HIV during the time that it is in the vagina or rectum because HIV does not live outside the body for very long. Men also have fewer areas on the penis where the virus can enter the body. Women are more likely to contract the virus through semen which can stay in the woman’s vagina longer after sex. Also, the vagina has more ways HIV can enter the woman’s body.

Myth: If I am HIV-positive, I can’t transmit the virus to my unborn baby.

Without treatment, there is a 25 percent chance of the baby contracting the virus. However, when a woman begins treatment early in her pregnancy, the chances of the baby contracting the virus drops to 2 percent. All pregnant women should get HIV tested, and those who have been diagnosed with HIV should not breastfeed– as this is one of the ways the virus can be transmitted.

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Myth: HIV is AIDS.

Having HIV does not mean an individual has AIDS. A person is said to have AIDS when his/her CD4 count drops below 200 or when the person has certain infections or cancer. HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS, but a person can survive many years without ever having it become AIDS.

Did any of the facts behind these myths surprise you? Were there any on the list you believed to be true? Let us know your thoughts

Medically Reviewed by on November 2, 2023

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Author: Nick Corlis

Nick Corlis is a writer, marketer, and designer. He graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, with a degree in Digital Communications. Nick is proud to be able to help eliminate the stigma of STD testing through his writing and is always trying to advocate the importance of your sexual health. Before STDcheck, his favorite way to develop his writing skills was by accepting various writing jobs in college and maintaining multiple blogs. Nick wears many hats here at STDcheck, but specifically enjoys writing accurate, well-researched content that is not only informative and relatable but sometimes also contains memes. When not writing, Nick likes to race cars and go-karts, eat Japanese food, and play games on his computer.