Myths & Misconceptions


HIV and AIDS are the same thing

Actually no, they are not the same thing.  Being diagnosed with HIV doesn’t mean you have AIDS.

When you are tested HIV+, it means the Human Immunodeficiency virus has entered your body.  When this happens, the virus will start to destroy your body’s resistance to disease.  With a weakened immune system, you are more likely to fall sick.

AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV when the body’s resistance to diseases has been severely destroyed making the person susceptible to multiple illnesses.

I shouldn’t work or be friends with someone who is HIV-positive and avoid all casual contact with this person

No, the virus is not transmitted through casual contact such as:

  • Sharing food or eating together
  • Sharing crockery and cutlery
  • Hugging and shaking hands
  • Playing sports together
  • Sharing toilet seats

In fact, it is safe to work, live or play with a person who is HIV-positive.  You can’t get HIV/AIDS by being in the same room or living in the same house with someone with the disease.  It is definitely safe to play soccer or watch a movie with them.

There is also no scientific proof that the virus is spread through an HIV-positive person’s saliva, sweat, urine or faeces, insect bites and coughs and sneezes.

The HIV virus is transmitted through:

  • Sexual intercourse with an HIV-positive person
  • Sharing of infected needles and piercing instruments
  • Transfer of body fluids by an HIV-positive mother to her unborn baby
  • Contaminated blood transfusion

Using condoms will surely protect me from the virus

On the contrary, condoms do not give 100% protection.

The best ways to protect yourself against HIV are:

  • Abstinence from casual sex
  • Staying faithful to your spouse
  • Staying away from drugs
  • Obtaining blood transfusion from only centers that have stringent blood screening

I can spot a person who is HIV-positive just by looking at their appearance

It is impossible to tell by appearance if someone is HIV-positive.

Many people don’t show signs of any symptoms for years even though they HIV-positive. And, for people living with HIV who are on effective treatment, they are just as likely to be as healthy looking as everyone else.  Even when they look healthy and fit, there is no guarantee that they are free from HIV.

The only way to be sure is to take a HIV test.

If I am fit and healthy, the virus cannot attack me

It doesn’t matter whether you are old or young, fit or weak, healthy or unhealthy.  HIV/AIDS can be transmitted to anyone who engages in high-risk behaviour such as having unprotected sex or having multiple sex partners.

HIV/AIDS is a homosexual disease so I am safe as long as I don’t indulge in homosexual acts

Like most illnesses, HIV doesn’t discriminate between types of people and the infection can be passed on to anyone. AIDS is not the result of one’s sexual orientation.

Anyone who fails to take the necessary precautions has a high risk of getting infected whether you are heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual.

The 2017 statistics show that there were 158 new heterosexual cases and 261 new homosexual/bisexual cases.

I’m HIV-positive and so is my partner so we don’t have to worry about HIV infection.

There are many strains of the HIV virus. If you and your partner are living with HIV you still need to protect each other from additional HIV infections. If you get infected with two or more strains of HIV it can cause problems for your treatment.

Once I am tested to be HIV-positive, there is no hope of living a normal life

People who have been diagnosed with HIV can continue to lead healthy and productive lives but they need to be on medication.  They can continue to work or study, and participate in social activities like everyone else.

With advancement in science and medicine, today there are medications that can delay the onset of AIDS and help prolong life.  Being HIV-positive is no longer a life sentence.  HIV/AIDS is not a dying disease anymore.

In fact, a person who is HIV-positive can look forward to living life with hope, meaning and fulfilment.

HIV is no big deal since there is now a cure for it

One of the most common myths people living with HIV hear is that they can be cured. Current treatments for this deadly disease are better than ever, but the bottom line is that these treatments only help prolong life, not cure the disease itself.

Mosquitoes spread HIV

Because the virus is passed through blood, people have worried that they could get it from biting or bloodsucking insects. Several studies show that doesn’t happen – even in areas with lots of mosquitoes and cases of HIV.

When bugs bite, they don’t inject the blood of the person or animal they bit before you. Also, HIV lives for only a short time inside them.

HIV-positive people can’t safely have children.

The most important thing that a woman living with HIV can do when preparing for pregnancy is to work with her healthcare provider to begin ART treatment as soon as possible. Because treatment for HIV has advanced so much, if a woman takes her HIV medicine daily as recommended by a healthcare provider throughout her entire pregnancy (including labour and delivery), and continues medicine for her baby for 4 to 6 weeks after birth, the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby can be as low as 1% or less.

There are also ways for a mother who has HIV to lower the risk of transmission in the event that the HIV viral load is higher than desired, such as choosing a C-section or bottle feeding with formula after birth.

Women who are HIV negative but are looking to conceive with a male partner who carries the HIV virus may also be able to take special medication to help lower the risk of transmission to both them and their babies. For males who have HIV and are taking their ART medication, the risk of transmission is virtually zero if the viral load is undetectable.