September 26, 2020
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Debunking the myths surrounding HIV and AIDS

Now that spring has finally sprung, love is undoubtedly in the air. Literal and metaphorical flowers are blooming after a long, harsh winter, and everyone wants to come out and play. I encourage you all to not only play often, but also to play hard. However, there is a golden rule that must be followed — play safe or don’t play at all.

And what’s the only realistic way to play safe? No, it’s not to “abstain” from playing at all — it’s to use protection. The most obvious reason to use protection is to minimize the creation of your own F1 generation. The most effective form of protection is a condom, if it’s used consistently and correctly. Condoms provide the most reliable means of protection from transmission of various STDs, including Human Immunodeficiency Virus, commonly known as HIV.

There are many misconceptions and myths regarding HIV and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Let’s start off with some simple definitions. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS is the disease that results from an HIV infection. HIV weakens the body’s immune system by attacking certain cells. Usually, HIV progresses to AIDS over an average of 10 years, but in areas with fewer resources, AIDS and subsequent death can occur over a shorter time period. So much stigma exists regarding HIV and AIDS, and it’s time we cleared the air.

Let’s bust two of the most common HIV/AIDS myths:

You cannot acquire HIV from being around a person who is HIV-positive. This means you cannot acquire HIV from breathing the same air, hugging, kissing, shaking hands or sharing eating utensils with a person who is HIV-positive, amongst a variety of other activities. HIV can only be transmitted sexually and through infected bodily fluids such as semen, blood, vaginal fluid and breast milk. This also means HIV can’t be spread by mosquitos.

 

Your life isn’t over if you’re HIV-positive. Many HIV treatments work incredibly well. In fact, they can reduce the amount of the virus in your blood to a level so low that it won’t show up in blood tests. However, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to practice safe sex. Always take the necessary precautions so you don’t make someone else HIV-positive.

 

Many activists continue to fight the stigma associated with AIDS. (AP Photo)
Many activists continue to fight the stigma associated with AIDS. (AP Photo)

This coming week on Tuesday,  April 8, you have the opportunity to learn all this and more at the College’s Medlife and the Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children’s benefit concert in honor of National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. There will food and a variety of performances, including the Treblemakers, Trentones and different student bands. In addition, there will be free HIV testing provided by Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, an organization committed to improving the lives of those living with HIV/AIDS and stopping the spread of the epidemic. This is a night you don’t want to miss. Be sure to come and get educated because this is an issue that can affect both you and the ones you love.

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