Myths and Misinformation

The more Queenslanders know about HIV, the easier it will be to prevent it.

Many people do not know the facts about HIV and often believe myths surrounding HIV. Myths such as HIV being a death sentence or that only certain people can get HIV.

Many myths create negative attitudes towards HIV or people living with HIV. These negative attitudes often led to stigma and discrimination.

HIV stigma affects everybody. It stops people from getting tested, accessing treatment and prevents people feeling safe to talk about HIV. It can also lead to people not being treated with equality and respect.

By staying informed we can all help end HIV – here are some common myths and the real facts:

MYTH: You can tell if someone has HIV.

You won’t know if somebody is living with HIV by looking at them. People who are receiving effective treatment for HIV are able to live a healthy life and often present no physical symptoms.

MYTH: I will know if I have HIV.

You’ll only know your status if you have regular HIV tests. There are approximately 20% of people living with HIV who haven’t been diagnosed yet. This means they are unaware of their status and aren’t getting the benefits of treatment. And they might not be taking the necessary steps to prevent HIV from being passed on.

MYTH: I’ve had a HIV test because my blood was taken and tested in hospital or my GP surgery.

If you have a blood test at a hospital or in a GP surgery they won’t automatically test you for HIV. You’ll be explicitly told if HIV is one of the conditions they’ll test for. If HIV testing isn’t mentioned, you won’t have had an HIV test.

MYTH: If you are living with HIV you can’t have a healthy baby.

Most HIV positive mothers on treatment give birth to healthy babies. Due to the effectiveness of routine antenatal HIV testing there is a very low chance of mothers giving birth to HIV positive babies.

MYTH: It’s very easy for me to catch HIV from someone who is living with the virus.

HIV can only be transmitted through infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk. HIV can’t spread through day-to-day contact, touching, kissing or sharing utensils. And there’s good news – HIV treatment makes it much less likely that people living with HIV will pass on the virus.

MYTH: You can get HIV from someone who spits at you or bites you.

There is no risk of HIV from spitting and it’s very unlikely infection will spread through biting unless open bleeding wounds are present on both people.

MYTH: You can get HIV if you stand on or pick up a used needle.

Queensland (and Australia) has never had a case of a HIV transmission from picking up or standing on a used needle. HIV is a very fragile virus that does not survive for long when exposed to the environment.

MYTH: HIV can spread through sharing razors or toothbrushes.

Sharing razors or toothbrushes can’t pass on HIV – even if you’re sharing with a person living with HIV. These personal items do carry bacteria (like hepatitis C) so it’s best not to share them for general hygiene reasons.

MYTH: If you get HIV you’ll die soon.

Although there isn’t a cure for HIV, treatment is so advanced that it’s no longer considered a death sentence. People diagnosed with HIV in Queensland today can have a normal life expectancy and live healthy and active lives. Early diagnosis is particularly important as the longer HIV goes undiagnosed, the more damage it can do to the body.

MYTH: My girlfriend is on the pill and that will protect me from HIV.

The pill offers no protection against HIV or other STI’s, the best protection is using condoms and lube.

MYTH: I have to tell my employer I’m living with HIV.

You’re not required to disclose your HIV status to your employer. Whether or not you choose to disclose your HIV status is totally up to you and you have every right to privacy regarding your status.

MYTH: I have to tell my dentist I’m living with HIV.

You’re not legally obliged to disclose your HIV status to your dentist. But your dentist may find it helpful to know if you have a blood-borne virus, so they can treat any looming conditions early before they become an issue.

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