For nearly 30 years, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) have been shrouded in myths and misconceptions. In some cases, these mistaken ideas have prompted the very behaviors that cause more people to become HIV-positive. Although unanswered questions about HIV remain, researchers have learned a great deal. Here are the top ten myths about HIV, along with the facts to dispute them.
"Good nutrition is very important for people with HIV," says Brad Hare, MD, director of the HIV/AIDS clinic at San Francisco General Hospital. Without a healthy diet, your body will have a harder time recovering and fighting off infections.
When HIV Makes You Lose Weight
Unwanted weight loss related to HIV is less common than it once was, but it still happens. HIV itself -- as well as related problems and treatments -- can cause it. It's more common in people with untreated or severe disease, an infection, or a high viral load, which is a high concentration of the virus in the blood.
When you have HIV, things that can cause you to lose weight include:
The HIV virus itself.
HIV drugs, which dull your appetite, make food taste bad, or make it harder for your body to absorb nutrients.
Symptoms like nausea and mouth sores can make eating unpleasant.
Diarrhea and other digestive problems can make it harder to take in nutrients from foods.
Exhaustion can slow you down, keep you from grocery shopping, and limit your ability to prepare healthy meals.
If you have advanced disease, high levels of HIV virus in your blood, or other infections, you may need more calories.