The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African American community made its “debut” in the early 1980’s and is entering its third decade as one of this country’s most critical and challenging health issue. Among African Americans, HIV/AIDS has produced especially grave outcomes.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics 2006 Report, HIV/AIDS is one of the top 10 leading causes of death for African Americans; and in the same year African Americans accounted for more than half (54 percent) of estimated new HIV infections in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that a quarter of those living with HIV, more than 250,000 do not know they are infected.
Shortly after HIV/AIDS hit the scene, rumors about it flew throughout the world. “You can get it by kissing.” “You can get it by holding hands.” “It is airborne.”
Throughout the years, most of the HIV myths have been dispelled, but it seems as though there are still a few rumors afloat. Since nearly half of all new HIV infections occur in the African American community, these myths may be standing in the way of proper protection. See if you can sort the truth from the most common myths about HIV.
1. If you test positive for HIV, you will inevitably die from AIDS.
FALSE. In the early years, an HIV diagnosis often meant the infected person would develop AIDS and die from complications of the disease within a matter of years, but this is no longer true. Medications, combined with lifestyle changes and complementary therapies that support the body’s ability to keep the virus in check, can keep an HIV-infected person from developing AIDS or the fatal complications associated with it for many years.
2. You can catch HIV from a toilet seat.
FALSE. The HIV virus cannot be transmitted by casual contact, from a toilet seat, a doorknob, a fork, or a handshake, for that matter. The only known HIV transmission methods include unprotected sex, intravenous drug use, exposure to blood or bodily fluids from an infected person, from mother to child in pregnancy, and through blood transfusions if the blood came from an HIV infected person. (Transmission of the virus did happen through blood transfusions or blood products in the 1980s before HIV testing became routine for all donated blood, but is highly unlikely to happen in a modern medical facility.)
3. There is a cure for HIV.
FALSE. There are medications available to suppress the virus in infected individuals and to lower their viral load. Such treatments can prolong or prevent the development of AIDS for years or even a lifetime. However, researchers have not found a cure for HIV that would eliminate the virus from an infected person’s body entirely.
4. People have been infected with HIV from taking the HIV test itself.