Myths and Facts

Myth X

Fact √

HIV treatment has terrible side effects and does more harm than good.

Whilst that was the case in the past, today’s anti HIV drugs have far fewer and less severe long term side effects. Like with a lot of medication most side effects are caused by the body getting used to a new drug and they usually go away within a few weeks. If you find that one drug causes a problem your doctor will usually be able to prescribe a different drug for you. Without anti- HIV drugs most people with HIV become seriously ill, develop AIDS and die early. When HIV treatment is taken in good time it allows people to live a long and healthy live.

HIV is man made.

HIV is closely related to a similar virus found in chimpanzees. It has existed in humans since at least the 1950s. Scientists believe the virus crossed to humans when a man hunting chimpanzees was wounded and blood from the chimpanzee entered his bloodstream.

People with HIV can infect others during every social contact.

HIV can only be passed on when one person’s body fluids e.g. blood; semen and vaginal floods (NOT saliva) get inside another person’s body (see the ‘How is HIV transmitted’ section on this website). It is important to understand that HIV cannot be transmitted though activities such as shaking hands, hugging, kissing, sharing cutlery, sharing crockery, sharing a bath or sharing a towel with someone who is living with HIV. Many people living with HIV are discriminated against because people are not fully aware how HIV is transmitted.

Foreigners are deported from the UK if they have HIV.

People are neither deported nor given permission to stay because they have HIV.

You don’t need to start taking anti-HIV drugs until you feel ill.

Without treatment HIV silently damages the immune system (the body’s defence system) and some of the damage cannot be repaired. New evidence indicates that you can benefit from anti-HIV treatment as soon as you have been diagnosed and this is something you should discuss with your doctor. Regular Viral Load tests and CD4 counts will show whether the treatment is working or not.

You can be cured of HIV.

Despite a lot of scientific research a cure for HIV has not yet been found. HIV can get rid of most of the HIV in the body but the virus never entirely disappears. It will still be present in some parts of the body such as the intestines. If you stop taking the anti-HIV drugs HIV will start to spread throughout your body (see HIV and Medication section of this website).

People with HIV pass their infection on every time they have sex.

In the same way that a woman does not become pregnant every time she has sex, HIV is not passed on each time either. There is very little risk of HIV being passed on if a condom is used correctly when having sex and if the person with HIV is also taking anti-HIV drugs then the risk is even lower.

‘Health tourists’ come to the UK to take advantage of NHS health care.

There are many reasons that people move to the UK but the NHS is rarely one of them. If people moved to the UK because of the NHS they would most probably start to use health services almost immediately. In fact, the average length of time between a person arriving in the UK and getting care from an HIV clinic is 5 years.

You can’t get HIV if you’re married.

Unfortunately millions of people who are married or in long term relationships have become HIV positive. This is sometimes because one partner had HIV before they met or because one partner has had unprotected sex with someone else outside of the relationship.

Herbs and nutritional supplements can be as effective as anti-HIV drugs.

Whilst some herbs and supplements might be good for your general health they cannot prevent HIV from infecting new cells and spreading. Also some herbal supplements stop anti-HIV drugs from working properly; they can reduce the amount of the drug that gets into the blood, making it less effective against HIV. Only anti-HIV drugs have been proven by scientific research to prevent HIV from spreading in the body.

A drug company has found a cure for HIV but is keeping it secret to protect its profits.

Scientists and drug companies have not yet discovered a cure for HIV. There are many different drug companies producing anti-HIV drugs and they are very competitive. If one of the companies could sell a cure they would earn far more money than their competitors! Research continues.