STI/HIV/AIDS Myths and Realities

Myths and Realities


 

1.    Myth:          Mosquitoes and other insects can transmit HIV.

Reality:        HIV is a virus and it does not survive in mosquitos

 

2.    Myth:          Hugging and kissing can cause HIV.

Reality:        Hugging does not transmit HIV because there is no exchange of body fluids. However, kissing may transmit HIV only if an infected person has mouth ulcers or sores. HIV cannot be transmitted through saliva. 

 

3.    Myth:          Having sex with a virgin can purify the blood and cure STIs/HIV/AIDS.

Reality:        Sex with a virgin involves exchange of body fluids and in no way does the act purify blood. It only infests the virgin.

 

4.    Myth:          Young girls are at no more increased risk of HIV than young men.

Reality:        The risk of HIV infection during unprotected sex is 2 to 4 times greater for a woman than a man. Male to female transmission is more likely because during vaginal intercourse, a woman has a larger surface area of her genital tract exposed to her partner’s sexual secretions, than does a man. In addition, HIV concentration is generally higher in a man’s semen than in a woman’s vaginal secretions.

 

5.    Myth:           Sharing clothing, bedding or eating from the same utensils may transmit HIV.

Reality:        This is not true because there is no exchange of bodily fluids.

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6.    Myth:          All STIs can be cured.

Reality:        Not all STIs can be cured. For example, genital herpes is an STI that cannot be cured. In addition, some STIs such as gonorrhea and syphilis may be cured but can leave the patient with long-term health consequences.

 

7.    Myth:          Sex with many partners will reduce the amount of infection in one’s body.

Reality:        Multiple sexual partners will continue to multiply infections and therefore increases a person’s viral load, causing the disease to accelerate or speed up.  

 

8.    Myth:          You cannot tell if somebody is HIV positive by looking at them.

Reality:        A laboratory or blood test is the only way to tell if someone is HIV positive. You cannot tell if someone is infected by his or her physical appearance.

 

9.    Myth:          STIs/HIV/AIDS are only transmitted through sex.

Reality:        STIs are transmitted through oral, anal or vaginal sex, but also through contact with blood, or from mother-to-child during birth and delivery.

 

10.  Myth:          The risk of transmitting HIV is the same for adults and adolescents.

Reality:        Young girls are at an increased risk of HIV infection because the vagina and cervix is less mature and less resistant to HIV and STIs such as Chlamydia and gonorrhea. Changes in the reproductive tract during puberty make the tissue more susceptible to penetration by HIV> Young women produce only scant vaginal secretions, providing little barrier to HIV transmission. 

 

11.  Myth:          Over 50% of STIs and HIV are found among young people below age 25.

Reality:        It is true that over 50% of STIs and HIV are found among adolescents and young adults under age 25. In fact, many adults over age 25 who have tested positive for HIV are thought to have contracted the infection during adolescence.  

 

12.  Myth:          Having HIV is the same as having AIDS.

Reality:        HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. People can carry the virus for as many as 10 years without having AIDS.

 

13.  Myth:           Circumcised men are at a lower risk for HIV infection.

Reality:        Some studies have shown that male circumcision may reduce HIV infection risk by as much as 50%, especially if done before age 12 and before sexual initiation. There also appears to be a reduction in infection rates for other STIs as well. However, more remains to be known about the relationship between circumcision and infection.

 

14.  Myth:          Women who have sex with women are at no risk for HIV transmission since there is no penetration.

Reality:        While the biological risk of HIV transmission through female-to-female sex is thought to be low, women who have sex with women should use latex gloves and dental dams as a precaution against contact with bodily fluids. HIV can be found in genital secretions, menstrual blood, and breast milk. Therefore, exposure to these fluids could lead to infection.

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15.  Myth:          Anal intercourse increases the risk of HIV infection.

Reality:        Anal intercourse increases the risk of HIV infection because the anal tissues are more easily torn and the rectal mucosa is a key reservoir for HIV-1. Unprotected anal intercourse is one of the main risk factors for HIV. It is also connected to the spread of other infections including hepatitis, genital warts, Chlamydia, and gonorrhea. The person receiving the semen is at greater risk of contracting HIV because the lining of the anus and rectum are thin and tiny tears can allow the virus to enter the blood stream during sex.  

 

16.  Myth:          There is no risk of infection during oral sex.

Reality:        HIV can be transmitted during oral sex if there are sores or lesions in the mouth that come into contact with body fluids containing the virus.  

 

17.  Myth:          There is no relationship between the transmission of STIs and HIV.

Reality:        STIs can facilitate the spread of HIV. Sexually active youth are at an increased risk if they have multiple partners and engage in unprotected sex. Having another STI both makes HIV-positive persons more infectious and makes HIV-negative persons more susceptible to infection. In fact, some STIs increase the replication of HIV.