10 HIV/AIDS Myths
Why We're Losing Ground in the War on HIV/AIDS
WebMD News Archive
"Myth" 3: Men Are the Problem
Shelton notes that in areas where HIV is widespread, women are just as
likely as men -- in some areas, more likely -- to be the sexual partner first
infected with HIV.
Kathleen Squires, MD, director of infectious diseases at Thomas Jefferson
University, Philadelphia, says the myth in the U.S. is that HIV is a disease of
"If you look at newly diagnosed HIV infections, the proportion among women
has steadily risen," Squires tells WebMD. "This clearly impedes diagnosis --
and prevention messages. Moreover, HIV disproportionately affects women of
color and women in disadvantaged populations."
"Myth" 4: Teens Are the Problem
If HIV prevention efforts emphasize preaching abstinence to teens, they won't have much effect on the epidemic,
Shelton suggests. He notes that people of all ages get and spread HIV -- and
that where HIV is epidemic, HIV becomes more common among women in their 20s
Squires says one of the biggest myths in the U.S. is that abstinence until
marriage will keep people from getting HIV.
"The fact is that many young people are sexually adventuresome. Just telling
them not to have sex won't help them," she says.
And there's another U.S. myth, Squires says. That's the myth that teaching
young people about safe
sex will make them promiscuous.
Dickinson agrees, and says that safe-sex education should start early.
"There needs to be openness in discussions about sexual behaviors and the
consequences of sexual behavior. And it needs to start early in the home," he
says. "Education is the most important weapon we have for this particular
disease as well as for many other diseases. It is sad that we have the tools
and the know-how to stop HIV since the '80s, when we first learned how it is
"Myth" 5: Poverty and Discrimination Are the Problem
In the developing world, Shelton writes, HIV is more common in wealthier
people than in poorer people. And some nations have reduced the spread of HIV
without reducing poverty levels.
Dickinson strongly disagrees with the suggestion that poverty and
discrimination don't matter.