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World AIDS Day 2021: Myths and Facts About HIV and AIDS One Should Know

Discovered first in 1981, the HIV virus so far has claimed over 36 million lives globally. (Image: Shutterstock)

Discovered first in 1981, the HIV virus so far has claimed over 36 million lives globally. (Image: Shutterstock)

World AIDS Day 2021: The virus directly attacks the immune system of a person and weakens their ability to fight back any type of infection and illness.

World Aids Day is observed annually on December 1 every year since 1988 as a day dedicated to raising awareness about AIDS disease and its prevention. People who have lost their lives to this deadly disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are remembered and mourned on this day.

Discovered first in 1981, the HIV virus so far has claimed over 36 million lives globally. The virus directly attacks the immune system of a person and weakens their ability to fight back any type of infection and illness. It slowly destroys the functionality of immune cells making the person immune deficient.

The most advanced stage of an HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS which takes about two to five years to develop if not treated on time. One of the biggest hardships faced by AIDS patients is the social discrimination that they have to go through in their journey.

Despite years of research on the disease and many awareness programmes run by governments and organizations like WHO, there’s still a large population living with heavy misconceptions about this disease. People still believe in myths regarding the ways the disease spreads which often leads to social discrimination against AIDS patients.

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To be careful about a disease does no harm to anyone but to discriminate AIDS patients based on misconception and rumours makes their already tough difficult battle tougher for them. As we observe the World Aids Day 2021 today, we look at some of the major myths and test them against the realities

Myth 1: HIV is same as AIDS

People often use HIV and AIDS interchangeably which is not correct. A lot of patients who get infected by HIV may not develop AIDS. The HIV infection, if not treated timely, advances into AIDS but if the right guidance and medical support are given on time, this development can be controlled.

Myth 2 - AIDS can spread by touching, sharing food or doing other regular social activities with AIDS patients

This is a complete hoax. It has been time and again reemphasized by doctors and researchers that HIV can only be transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids from infected people such as blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal secretions. It can’t spread through air, water, saliva, tears or the sweat of a person which is not mixed with the blood of an HIV positive patient. It surely doesn’t spread through regular social interaction.

Myth 3 - HIV positive mother will always pass on the virus to her baby

While it’s quite a possibility that an HIV positive mother may pass on the virus to her baby during pregnancy, however, it’s not a given. The transmission can be protected.

If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with HIV infection, she is given medication that helps to protect the baby from the infection. The medicines check the multiplication of the virus in the mother’s body and hence reduce the chances of mother to child transmission

Myth 4- If both partners are HIV positive, there’s no need to use protection

HIV infections have multiple strains so there’s always a risk of reinfection and superior infection. This may make the condition of an already infected person worse. Additionally, there’s also a risk of catching other sexually transmitted diseases like herpes.

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first published:December 01, 2021, 07:35 IST