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Common myths about HIV

Common myths about HIV

access_timeFebruary 18, 2016 02:42 pm

Many myths surround the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), some arising from ignorance and others clearly malicious. These falsehoods, often unnoticed or accepted without more, both directly and indirectly affect lives. In this article we proceed to dispel some misconceptions.

Are HIV AIDS the same?

First, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is, as its name implies, a virus. Moreover, the AIDS-(Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the set of symptoms of more advanced stage of HIV infection. They are not the same. HIV can only cause AIDS if not treated.

See below for more detail:


HIV affects the immune system by destroying certain types of cells (CD4 T lymphocytes) which are responsible for fighting infection, so the body is vulnerable to all kinds of diseases, so it becomes immunosuppressed.
The virus cannot be eliminated from the body so that the infection is lifelong. However, antiretroviral treatment, which prevents the virus from reproduce itself, helps anyone living with HIV leading a normal life without the condition worsens and develops AIDS.


Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), on the other hand, is a set of symptoms related to the most advanced stage of HIV infection. This only happens if you have not followed the appropriate treatment to maintain the lowest possible viral load (amount of HIV in a drop of blood) to undetectable. The higher the viral load, the less CD4 cells, the more important of our immune system.
When weakened the immune system, numerous serious diseases called "opportunistic infections” converge as there is a lack of defenses. This set of conditions represents what is called syndrome: human immunodeficiency syndrome.
The immune system in this state is so weak that any opportunistic disease can be fatal to the patient.


To live with HIV is a certain death sentence?

Living with HIV is not a death sentence. Following daily treatment helps to a person living with HIV to enjoy a good quality of life.


Is HIV transmitted through simple social activities such as reaching, sneezing, kissing, insect bites, animal bites, sharing food, utensils, etc?

There are only three ways of HIV transmission:

1. Sexual: practice unprotected sex, i.e., sex without a condom or without being in PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).
2. Blood: Use of non-sterile or contaminated needles.
3. Vertical: It's called the transmission of the virus from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.


The virus is not found in hair, saliva, skin, or in the air or in water. Sharing eating utensils, bathrooms, pools, kissing, caresses or foods pose no risk. Nor coughing and sneezing can spread the virus.

Only certain body fluids can transmit the virus, which are:

-Liquid pre-cum and semen
-Fluidos vaginal
-Rectal fluids


The virus outside the body is very weak and survives only from a few minutes to a few hours. It also loses its infectivity and reproduction capacity.

The mosquito bites also does not transmit HIV because the virus dies instantly in the insect. Moreover, the mosquito extracts blood but injects saliva making it impossible to transfer the virus this way. Neither animal bites pose a risk of exposure to the virus. Transmission can only occur between humans. However, chimpanzees can indeed transmit to humans by the high degree of genetic similarity between the two species (humans and chimpanzees share 99% of DNA)

Based on the foregoing, there is no reason to isolate a person living with HIV as there is no reason to isolate anyone else with any other chronic condition like diabetes or lupus.

It is noteworthy that when a person living with HIV remains undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus through any of the fluids mentioned.


To live with HIV means giving up a sentimental and sexual life?

Following appropriate treatment, there is no reason why we should give up sex and/or sentimental relationships which contribute to enjoy a normal life and of good quality.


If I live with HIV, I have nowhere to go here in Paraguay?

A person living with HIV does not have to feel helpless to fend for themselves while there are shortcomings in that regard public and private care.
The State provides laboratory tests to determine the diagnosis. Likewise, the Ministry of Health, through the National Program to Combat AIDS (PRONASIDA) offers treatment and monitoring, with a degree of decentralization in other departments, although it is still insufficient to domestic demand. Moreover, private health care insurance does not deny but explicitly limit coverage to people living with HIV.


Given this, the Law 3.940/09 "Establishing rights, obligations and preventative measures concerning the effects of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and human immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)" expressed in Article 17:


"Access to Comprehensive Health Care:
The public health facilities at all levels should provide care for PLWHIV who need it, providing them with information, guidance, materials, treatment and counseling, according to the level of complexity. These should be incorporated into the system of immediate referral and centers established by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare and PRONASIDA for comprehensive care referral. The private health and social security must provide their insured PLWHIV corresponding comprehensive care [...] "


Likewise, SOMOSGAY organization has the Kuimba'e Clinic, without costs. The clinic focuses on the health of the male (hence its name, which is the guarani word for “men”) and offers consultations, tests, treatments and condoms free of charge.


Is there a cure for HIV?

No, there is not. However, it is being extensively investigations achieving a rapid progress in regard to the treatment. Today a person living with HIV or AIDS (PLWHIV Abbreviations used in the medical community) can lead a normal and healthy life by following a daily antiretroviral therapy, having more safe sex and taking full responsibility for the care of their health and their loved ones with competent medical professionals.


Do naturalistic remedies can replace the 'traditional' treatment?

In consultation with Dr. Ivan Allende, specialized in infections: "Alternative medicine is ancient and in many situations provides a more efficient treatment then traditional medicine. In the case of HIV infection, antiretroviral therapy, drugs that act on different targets in combination with the same virus, can not be replaced, but there is no absolute contraindication for the person to use alternative therapy as long as his antiretroviral is complementary therapy. "


Are HIV and AIDS a divine punishment?

Attributing all existing diseases (and other evils), to punishments imposed by deities only prevents us from acquiring the knowledge of the real causes in order to deal with it in a timely manner to avoid any deterioration in health. As for the transmission, human responsibility is the only one that must be addressed and highlighted. Finally, the guilt can produce impairments in mental health and negatively affect the quality of life.


HIV origins date back to the simian immunodeficiency virus, which was present in chimpanzees in Africa. Hunting and meat consumption of apes led to transmission and mutation of the virus in humans. As mentioned above, chimpanzees and humans have almost identical DNA. This happened in the first half of the twentieth century due to urban explosion in the very heart of Africa-in the country now called the Democratic Republic of Congo and the extensive migration within and outside the continent, the virus was spreading around the world.


Only the knowledge empowers us as human beings and gives us tools against false fears. The accurate and timely information is the key to optimal quality of life for people living and living with HIV.

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Norma Flores Allende

Redactora, SOMOSGAY.