Health and Fitness

The Real Facts About HIV You Must Know

On a fundamental degree, most of us are acquainted with HIV, the virus that may progress to AIDS. HIV assaults your physique’s immune system, particularly your CD4 cells, that are important to serving to your physique struggle off an infection. The virus can cut back the variety of these infection-fighting cells, making you extra susceptible to sure infections and illness, in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2018, the latest yr for which new HIV an infection information is out there, 30,691 males obtained an HIV analysis within the U.S. While HIV circumstances are on the decline normally, it is nonetheless a significant issue, particularly in sure teams. For occasion, male-to-male sexual contact accounted for 65% of all new HIV infections in 2019, in line with the CDC. And some racial teams are extra closely affected, too, notably African American and Hispanic folks. In reality, African Americans make up 12% of the U.S. inhabitants, however account for 42% of all new HIV diagnoses.

HIV has been within the public eye because the early Eighties, and since that point, misconceptions concerning the illness have abounded. Price’s feedback solely emphasize the significance of getting the actual information out to the general public, says Carlos Malvestutto, M.D., M.P.H, who makes a speciality of infectious illness at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“There are definitely misperceptions that seem to have a surprising amount of staying power,” he says.

Here are 8 myths about HIV which have lingered, and the truths that ought to dispel them for good.

HIV Myth: Transmission is at all times a excessive danger from folks with HIV

For a long time, this was really true. “There’s a reason they called it an epidemic,” Malvestutto says. “But we’ve come a very long way since the 1980s in terms of learning how to control transmission.”

But with new medical advances like antiretrovirals, which decrease the extent of HIV in your physique—referred to as the viral load—it’s merely not the case anymore. In reality, there’s a catchy mnemonic within the infectious illness world now: U=U. If your HIV is undetectable—which means the viral load is low sufficient so it doesn’t present up on blood checks—then it’s most unlikely to be transmitted.

“There are numerous studies to support this, and the CDC supports this, because the data is consistent,” Malvestutto says. “So, although we still encourage condom use to prevent other STDs, the risk of HIV is just not there if the condom breaks.”

According to a letter from the CDC, “people who take ART daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.”

HIV Myth: HIV shortens your lifespan significantly

If you are present process antiretroviral therapy and your viral load is undetectable, then you’ve got about the identical lifespan as somebody with out HIV, Malvestutto explains. According to a examine revealed in The Lancet, individuals who began antiretroviral remedy throughout 2008 to 2010 with CD4 cell counts above 350 (a marker of immune well being) one yr after initiation have an estimated life expectancy approaching that of the final inhabitants.

Some analysis suggests you may stay a couple of months lower than somebody non-infected, he says, however normally, you may depend on a fairly regular lifespan.

However, there may be one caveat to that: coronary heart illness. People with HIV can have double the danger of coronary heart assault, in line with Northwestern University researchers. Malvestutto says extra analysis must be completed to find out why that may be, however it’s seemingly associated to continual irritation that’s attributable to the an infection, even when it’s being suppressed.

That means it’s much more necessary for these with HIV to scale back coronary heart assault and stroke danger with way of life measures like quitting smoking, exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, and controlling hypertension. (Here’s how 3 former people who smoke lastly stop for good.)

“Our patients aren’t dying of AIDS anymore, they’re dying of heart disease,” Malvestutto says. “So, in some ways, you may have a shorter lifespan if you have HIV, but there are many factors you can control to reduce the risk of that.”

HIV Myth: If you’ve got HIV, you are taking a “cocktail” of medicine with ample negative effects

This fable is persistent as a result of, just like the transmission fable, it was as soon as true however isn’t any longer. In the early days of HIV therapy, these with the virus needed to take quite a few drugs that usually had horrible negative effects—notably when their illness had progressed to AIDS, says Malvestutto. These included issues like extreme muscle ache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and headache.

Although some folks might should take a couple of drugs now to manage the virus—relying on how superior your HIV may be—the bulk take solely tablet per day, and that has few reported negative effects and really minimal toxicity, Malvestutto says. There are a number of choices when it comes to once-daily, single-tablet regimens, however all have antiretroviral properties.

“Some people are afraid of going on treatment because they think they’ll get incredibly sick,” Malvestutto says. “We simply don’t see that anymore. The majority of people just take their pill to keep the virus suppressed, and have no side effects at all.”

hiv therapy pills on pink background

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HIV Myth: Only homosexual males and IV drug customers get HIV

This specific fable is curiously persistent, in line with Gabriel Rebick, M.D., specializing in infectious illness and immunology at NYU Langone Health.

“I see a lot of heterosexuals who thought they couldn’t get HIV, and that’s obviously not true,” he says.

The dangers are increased individuals who have anal intercourse, probably the most transmissive technique to get HIV. That’s as a result of the liner of the rectum is skinny and might develop micro-tears that enable HIV-infected semen to enter the bloodstream. People who use IV medication are additionally a high-risk group since they’ll share needles, and even a small quantity of blood from one individual to the following could cause an infection.

But that doesn’t imply everybody else is within the clear. In reality, a 2016 report from the CDC discovered that heterosexuals accounted for 25 p.c of the brand new HIV circumstances in 2010. And of the variety of new heterosexuals contaminated in that yr, 34 p.c of them have been males.

HIV Myth: You can inform who has HIV as a result of they’ll appear sick

One of probably the most troublesome elements of recognizing HIV is the shortage of signs, which is what has made the epidemic into, properly, an epidemic. Yet some folks nonetheless imagine that these with HIV will “seem sick,”—like having flu-like signs or lesions—so having intercourse with somebody who appears completely wholesome presents no danger. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

“Especially early on, there’s rarely an indication of infection,” Rebick says. “That’s why it’s important to get tested if you’re sexually active and have multiple partners, or if you’re an IV drug user. Or, really, anyone.”

The CDC recommends all adults get screened for HIV at the least as soon as, and other people at increased danger, like sexually energetic homosexual males, at get re-screened at the least yearly.

HIV Myth: Condoms and clear needles are the one technique to stop HIV transmission

Yes, these are nice prevention instruments. But right here’s one other marvel of the fashionable infectious illness period: a drug known as Truvada.

This is a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) therapy that comes within the type of a single tablet taken every day by individuals who haven’t got HIV to assist stop towards HIV an infection. It works by blocking the HIV virus from attacking the immune system. It’s usually used for individuals who are at substantial danger of an infection, comparable to folks in high-risk teams.

Approved in 2012 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PrEP , the drug nonetheless isn’t available in some elements of the nation, because it’s taking a while for the routine to turn out to be broadly accepted, Malvestutto says. But it’s broadly utilized in bigger city areas like New York City and San Francisco, and it’s been a sport changer for HIV prevention.

“With this drug, which is very safe and has minimal to no side effects, you can be exposed to HIV and you’ll be protected,” he says. “It’s contributing to reducing the risk of transmission. I have some patients who’ve been on it for years.” (Still, it will not shield towards different STDs, so condoms are nonetheless wanted for that.)

HIV Myth: If you might be uncovered to HIV, there’s nothing you are able to do to forestall an infection

There is, really, a sort of Plan B for HIV, and it’s a technique known as post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP.

These are antiretroviral medicines that should be administered inside 72 hours—though sooner is best—within the case of potential HIV publicity. You take them for 28 days, and the therapy considerably reduces the danger of an infection, in line with Malvestutto.

HIV Myth: You can simply get HIV from any alternate of fluids, together with oral intercourse

Nope. HIV is transmitted by way of blood or semen, however the CDC emphasizes that you’ve got “little to no risk” of getting or transmitting HIV from oral intercourse, due to the low probabilities of semen coming into the bloodstream. Still, it might happen if there are sores within the mouth or penis, or bleeding gums.

The danger is even decrease with kissing except you’ve got some severe gum illness challenge on either side. But the probabilities of that occuring are extremely low.

“This is actually one of the biggest misconceptions we hear,” Rebick says. “People think you can HIV from hugging, or being in close contact with someone who has the virus. Some people even think it can airborne. All of that is simply untrue.”

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