Approximately 15 Floridians become infected with HIV every day. We still have much work to do and, to be successful in the fight, we must do it together. Remember, each of us is part of the solution to end this epidemic.
A wide range of symptoms is associated with AIDS. Many symptoms are not necessarily due to the breakdown of the immune system, but are the result of opportunistic diseases and infections and their manifestations. Two common manifestations are Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PCP) — a lung disease in which victims experience shortness of breath, a non-productive (dry) cough, anemia, and fever — and Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS), a type of cancer that manifests itself as grayish-purple skin lesions, lesions on several internal organs, night sweats, and weight loss. Other symptoms associated with the various opportunistic diseases and conditions are chronic headaches, chronic and persistent diarrhea and vomiting, blindness, memory loss, rashes, sores, assorted aches and pains, neurological dysfunctions and other manifestations.
Myth: A person with HIV or AIDS looks sick.
Truth: People with HIV infection often don’t look or feel sick—and they may not even know they are infected. In some cases, even those with a very low T-cell or CD4 cell count may look healthy. The only sure way to know if someone has HIV is for that person to be tested.
Myth: Only gay people get HIV/AIDS.
Truth: When the epidemic began in the early 1980s, the first cases of HIV and AIDS were found among men who had sex with men (MSM) in major cities. Today, however, the picture of the epidemic looks very different. Many new cases of HIV occur among heterosexual women of color, ethnic minorities, and people who live in rural areas.
While the number of new cases is still highest among MSM, it is important to remember that HIV is transmitted primarily by risky drug-taking behaviors. If you engage in those behaviors without taking protective measures, you are at risk of HIV infection—regardless of the gender of your partner.
Myth: Some people have been cured of HIV.
Truth: While there are many treatment options that can stop the virus from replicating in the human body, there is currently no cure for HIV.
Myth: HIV isn’t a big deal anymore. A person can take a pill once a day and be fine.
Truth: An HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence like it was in the early days on the epidemic—but it continues to be a “big deal.” Living with HIV can be challenging, and HIV medications can have serious side effects and cause other health problems. Preventing HIV infection is much better than having to treat it.
Myth: Being HIV positive is the same thing as having AIDS.
Truth: Being HIV positive and having an AIDS diagnosis are not the same. AIDS occurs only after a long period of HIV infection, during which the body’s immune system has been badly damaged. AIDS is diagnosed when certain opportunistic infections are present or when a person’s CD4 (T-cell) count drops below a certain value.
Myth: A person can get HIV from touching or kissing someone with HIV.
Truth: HIV is not spread through casual contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, sharing cups or towels, or closed-mouth kissing. For more information, see CDC’s Questions and Answers: Transmission.
Myth: I am not at risk because I am in a monogamous relationship.
Truth: You may not always know if your partner is having sex (or injecting drugs) outside of the relationship, so it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. If you are beginning a monogamous relationship, it’s important for both partners to be tested for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Myth: You can’t have a baby if you are HIV positive.
Truth: With proper healthcare and medication, HIV positive women are able to have a healthy pregnancy and give birth to babies who are HIV negative. Pregnant women should be tested for HIV to ensure that they receive proper care.
© 2013 We Make The Change