World AIDS Day: let’s debunk the myths about HIV once and for all

Support us and go ad-free

The message for this year’s World AIDS Day is simple: we need to educate others about what it means to live with HIV and AIDS today and combat the stigma that stops people accessing treatment.

Since the inaugural awareness day on December 1, 1988, major developments have arisen in our understanding and treatment of the condition; so much so that now the UN has set an ambitious goalto end the epidemic by 2030.

On December 1st the National AIDS Trust (NAT) focussed on a much-needed theme – ‘Think Positive: Rethink HIV’ . This year the charity aims to challenge outdated stereotypes, combat myths and be positive about the life prospects of those with the virus. Therefore, it is high time that four ‘big myths’ about the condition were debunked:

‘All people living with HIV are infectious’

Current HIV research is focussed on manipulating genes and the production of a vaccine. The National Institute of Medical Research identified a gene from the rhesus monkey that could prevent HIV infection in the future. Only last year, gene editing was found to have the potential to tackle HIV in a groundbreaking clinical test. For now, antiretroviral medicines used to treat the condition have evolved dramatically and can substantially decrease the ‘viral load’ as well as increase the life expectancy of someone living with HIV. So this means, with the right treatment, an increasing number of people with undetectable levels of the virus in their body are non-infectious.

‘The disease is getting worse’

Figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that progress is being made, with a reduction in the number of deaths (42% since 2004) and new infections (35% since 2000). 7.8 million deaths have been prevented during the last 15 years with around 16 million people worldwide receiving medical treatment. Despite these astounding figures, it is evident that more work is to be done as 21 million people are yet to receive antiretroviral medication. The progress made so far has to be continued if the aim of ‘getting to zero’ and ending AIDS by 2030 is to become reality.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

‘All mothers with HIV pass it on to their children’

Approximately 46% of people are unaware that they are infected with HIV, according to the WHO. They stress that HIV transmission can be prevented, for example by ensuring more people are tested, especially those in high-risk groups, and by using ‘pre-exposure prophylaxis’ which is a combination of antiretroviral medications taken every day in order to prevent HIV transmission and ‘post-exposure prophylaxis’ if exposed to the virus (often used in sexual health clinics and hospitals after needle-stick injuries). Male circumcision reduces HIV transmission by 60% (with about 10 million African men undergoing the procedure since 2010) and vertical transmission from mother to child can be prevented in a multitude of ways.

 

‘HIV can be transmitted via kissing and mosquito bites’

Education is still a big issue as myths about HIV continue to circulate. Eradication of the virus is only possible if the facts are presented and reiterated. This is the aim of World AIDS Day – get the facts out and dispel the myths. One of the oldest myths is that HIV is transmitted via kissing. An ‘HIV kissing booth‘ has been set up in London’s Soho Square in response to NAT research which found that 16% of people wrongly think you can get HIV from kissing, up from 4% ten years ago.
While an HIV-positive result is no longer a death sentence, many people with the condition in the UK and beyond are tragically still victims of discrimination and violence. In Zimbabwe, teens are reportedly committing suicide following an HIV diagnosis, while the Australian Human Rights Commission has described the business of tackling HIV stigma as a ‘stubborn challenge‘. It’s our responsibility to share the truth about the condition; education is the first step in changing attitudes.

 

Featured image via Flickr Creative Commons

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed