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    7 Common HIV Myths Debunked!

    After more than 30 years, myths and misconceptions around the HIV/AIDS epidemic continue to persist. Let's have some real talk on HIV!

    1. HIV is not a gay disease

    While HIV does not exclusively impact gay men, its toll is heaviest among gay, bisexual and transgender communities. We must acknowledge and work to reduce the impact of HIV on women of color and IV drug users. But gay and bisexual men account for more than 63% of all new infections in the U.S., despite making up less than 2-4% of the overall population. Ignoring this fact does a disservice to the gay community by diminishing the severity of the crisis it faces.

    2. “Down low” men are infecting Black women

    While stories of closeted Black men infecting their wives or partners may grab headlines, it is not a significant driver of the epidemic. About 1 in 5 Black women become infected through injection drug use, while about 80% acquire HIV through sexual contact with male partners who may have acquired HIV through injecting drugs themselves, through having multiple sexual partners or in smaller proportions, through male bisexual activity.

    3. Only sluts get HIV

    First, there is no such thing as a "slut." Discussions around HIV and sexual health should strive to be sex positive – stop slut shaming! All humans are sexual beings, and our job is to give everyone the tools they need to make the best decisions for themselves, their health and the health of their partners. While having multiple unprotected sex partners is one of several risk factors associated with HIV, the majority of new HIV transmissions actually occur between primary partners.

    4. Gay men get HIV because they have riskier sex

    There are several reasons why gay and bisexual men contract HIV at higher rates than other groups, but it is not because they engage in riskier sex. While it is easier to transmit HIV through anal sex rather than vaginal sex, on average gay and bisexual men use condoms more often and more consistently than their heterosexual counterparts. Also, straight couples have anal sex too! But because HIV is so much more prevalent among gay men – especially gay men of color – just one unprotected encounter could more easily result in transmission.

    5. Condoms are the only form of HIV protection

    While condoms are an essential and readily available tool for preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, they are just one of many effective strategies available to protect yourself. Maintaining a suppressed viral load if you are HIV-positive (treatment as prevention) or adhering to PrEP if you’re HIV-negative (pre-exposure prophylaxis) have both proven a similar capacity to help prevent HIV transmission and acquisition. We must use all of the tools we have available for HIV prevention if we are to successfully end this epidemic.

    6. “Full-blown AIDS” is a thing

    As our friends over at the Stigma Project point out so succinctly, “there’s no such thing as half-blown AIDS.” AIDS is a diagnosis given to individuals living with HIV whose CD4 cell count drops below a certain level or who develop an AIDS-defining illness. While not particularly offensive, it is problematic in that it implies that there are different stages of AIDS, or that HIV is a lesser form of AIDS. Neither of which is true. When referring to someone who has received an AIDS diagnosis, just say that – “AIDS.”

    7. The HIV epidemic is no longer a big deal

    More than 1.1 million people are living with HIV or AIDS in the United States, while another 50,000 people newly contract the virus each year. Treatment has greatly improved the ability of people living with HIV to live long, healthy and productive lives. But there is still no cure for the virus, and those who acquire it must work to keep it in check for the rest of their lives, an often expensive and sometimes challenging prospect.

    Now go spread the word!

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