December 1 is World Aids Day, when people worldwide unite to fight HIV, show support for those living with the virus and commemorate those who have died.
Sadly, there is stigma attached to a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. It can be very difficult for those diagnosed to disclose or discuss their feelings, especially as so many myths about the disease prevail. I’m using this article to tackle some of them:
You can’t get pregnant if you have HIV
HIV can be passed from mother to child via the birth canal and breast milk. However, thanks to effective treatments in the UK, 99.5% of children born from HIV positive mothers don’t have the virus.
If you have HIV, you’ll always get AIDS
Treatment for HIV has improved massively since the virus was first discovered in the 1980s. In the UK, only 0.3% of those with HIV develop AIDS.
You’ll die early
Thanks to improved drug regimens, HIV is no longer a life-limiting illness.
HIV only infects gay men
Anyone who is sexually active and has unprotected sex or who shares needles, regardless of whether they are gay, straight or bisexual, can contract HIV after being exposed to the virus. However, HIV rates in the UK are higher in gay and bisexual men and those of an African background.
You can’t touch people who are HIV positive
HIV is most commonly caught by having unprotected sex. It can also be passed on by sharing needles or other injecting equipment. HIV is only found in the semen, vaginal fluid, blood and breast milk of infected people. You cannot catch HIV from kissing, touching or day-to-day contact with an infected person. People who are on effective HIV treatment can even become non-infectious.
Everyone has the power to stop HIV. Get tested, get treated, get talking.
Support is available to patients and their families via their GP or online doctor, HIV clinic or through charities.
Dr. Alexandra Phelan is an NHS GP and Online Doctor for Pharmacy2U. Manage your repeat prescriptions by going to www.pharmacy2u.co.uk/NHS