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HIV & AIDS Health Center

10 HIV/AIDS Myths

Why We're Losing Ground in the War on HIV/AIDS
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"Myth" 5: Poverty and Discrimination Are the Problem continued...

"With poverty comes poor education, and with poor education people don't know how to avoid health threats," he says. "Poverty certainly is part of the HIV problem here in Miami. And discrimination drives people underground."

Dickinson says that one of the main HIV/AIDS myths in the U.S. is the myth that HIV infection no longer carries a dangerous stigma.

"HIV certainly still is a major stigma," he says. "It is a major concern for many people who have HIV -- such a concern that they will not divulge it. It is such a concern that they will not even risk finding out whether they are infected."

"Myth" 6: Condoms Are the Answer

Shelton does not downplay the major role condoms play in preventing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. But he notes that where HIV is widespread, people tend to have intimate relationships with more than one person at a time. In these regular relationships, he notes, condom use is inconsistent at best.

Dickinson says that while condom promotion certainly cannot end the AIDS epidemic, it has a tremendous impact.

"If I am faced with an epidemic, and condoms are, say, only 50% effective, that is still great. A 70% effective vaccine is one that works well. It beats the hell out of preaching abstinence," he says.

"Myth" 7: HIV Testing Is the Answer

There's a widespread belief that people who know they are infected with HIV will act responsibly and change their risky behavior.

"Real-world evidence of such change is discouraging, especially for the large majority who test negative," Shelton writes.

And he notes that people recently infected with HIV are the most infectious -- yet test negative for HIV.

Dickinson says that while testing is not the sole answer to the HIV epidemic, it does help people reduce their risk behavior.

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