5 Misconceptions About HIV – HIV and AIDS Awareness Day

Almost 37 million people around the world are living with HIV, and 2.6 million of these are under the age of 15. Still, there seems to be a lot of misconception about the disease, which is the most feared and poorly understood sexually transmitted infection.

This is why today, National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day is so important both in raising awareness about prevention and dispel misconceptions about what it means to live with HIV.

“One thing young people need to know is that HIV has been around for a long time and there have been a lot of improvements in medicine, but it is still a problem, a threat to us always”, Marcella Flores, PhD, the senior research associate at amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, says Vogue teens.

Here are five common misconceptions about HIV that you should stop believing:

MYTH: If both partners test negative or positive for HIV, you do not need to use a condom.

There are many other sexually transmitted infections next to HIV that you could also get from a partner. “HIV is just one of the many things you need to worry about if you are starting out with a new partner,” says Marcella. And although condoms are “one of the most important tools we have as sexually active women and men” because they reduce the risk of transmission of STIs, they are not foolproof. This is why it is so important to make sure that you and your partner are regularly tested for STIs.

However, using a condom is a good habit to take. And don’t make a habit of relying on your partner, or potential partner, to provide you with a condom. If you are leaving the house with the intention of having sex, bring your own. Also, make sure the condom is made of latex – lambskin condoms don’t block against HIV (or other STIs, for that matter).

MYTH: You cannot get HIV through oral sex.

“Oral sex can absolutely transmit HIV, especially if you receive the ejaculate,” Marcella explains. However, the use of dental dams and condoms can help protect against infection by preventing fluids from entering the mouth.

MYTH: You can get HIV through sweat, saliva, tears and sharing toilet seats.

“It’s obviously a myth,” says Marcella. “It’s blood-to-blood contact and sexual contact, and the regular wear and tear of sexual acts. You will not get HIV from standing next to someone sweating in the subway. Kissing will not get HIV. It can’t happen.

Only certain fluids from an HIV-positive person (blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluid, vaginal fluids, and breast milk) can transmit HIV. According to the CDC, these fluids must come in contact with a damaged mucous membrane or tissue or be injected directly into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur.

MYTH: Modern drugs have eliminated much of the risk of getting HIV.

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