Sheffield based organisation SAYiT is transforming the lives of LGBTQ+ young people in the UK. The organisation aims to create inclusive environments for members of the LGBT community. In celebration of Worlds AIDS Day in December, the organisation, working with four medical students at University of Sheffield, debunked some myths and misconceptions of HIV and AIDS.
It’s important for us all to be aware of these myths everyday, not just on World AIDS Day.
Check out the 9 myths and the reality below.
MYTH 1 – Someone living with HIV will always pass the virus on if they have sex.
This is in fact not true, if your viral load (the amount of HIV particles in your blood) is undetectable, it is impossible to pass on the virus even when having unprotected sex. However you can pass on other infections before your viral load is low, therefore using condoms is the best form of protection.
MYTH 2 – You can get HIV from oral sex.
The risk of contracting HIV from oral sex is extremely low, but is however increased if you have open sores, ulcers, bleeding gums and having sex during menstruation. Using dental dams increases the protection against HIV.
MYTH 3 – HIV only affects young promiscuous gay men.
Whilst it is true that certain people are more susceptible to contracting HIV, everyone can contract the virus. It can also be caught on one single occasion and is definitely not a sign of promiscuity. The best way to keep on top of sexual health is to get tested regularly.
MYTH 4 – You can tell if you have HIV from symptoms only.
Everybody’s symptoms are different, and some people don’t experience symptoms at all.
MYTH 5 – I’m HIV positive and so is my partner, so we don’t have to worry about HIV.
There are many different strains of the virus, meaning you and your partner could have different strains which could lead to additional infections.
MYTH 6 – If I get HIV my life is over, it’s a death sentence.
When HIV and AIDS were first seen in the population, the prognosis for it was very poor. However in today’s society, providing that they are diagnosed early enough and have access to good medical care, people with HIV or AIDS are expected to live a normal and happy life.
MYTH 7 – HIV always leads to AIDS.
With today’s medicine, an otherwise healthy person with HIV cannot develop AIDS and people can even give birth and not infect the baby.
MYTH 8 – If I take PrEP, I do not need to use a condom.
PrEP significantly lowers the risk of contracting HIV, however, it does not stop you from contracting other STDs. Therefore condoms are still very important in protecting the body during sex. HIV can take up to three months to be detected so testing regularly is the best solution.
MYTH 9 – HIV can spread through infected water or food, or by touching someone who has it / I am safe because I am a virgin.
HIV is spread by blood and bodily fluids, not via the air, water or food. The virus isn’t always transmitted through sex, for example, it can be contracted through needle sharing when taking drugs.
Did you learn something new about HIV/AIDS? Please do share it with friends and family.
SAYiT holds regular support group sessions for young people and parents to keep LGBT information positive and informative. They support people who may be questioning their identity and help those who may be feeling alone and vulnerable.
‘’I feel more confident since I’ve been coming to SAYiT. I feel well supported and I’ve got lots of friends here.’’
If you would like to support the organisation, please go to the SAYiT website.