Okay, so HIV/AIDS has been around for 30 years, yet too many of us don't know what we need to know about the epidemic. Our special HIV/AIDS 101 series for BET.com will provide a range of information about this disease that everyone can understand.
Today's "lesson" will answer the question, "What Are Some Myths About HIV/AIDS That Most People Still Believe?"
It's amazing what we have allowed ourselves to believe about HIV/AIDS in our own community. Over the past six years, I have heard it all when it comes to HIV/AIDS myths. And it's disheartening because knowledge is power, and if we are spreading mistruths, we are doing nothing more than disempowering our community.
Here are some of the biggest myths about HIV/AIDS that impact the Black community and explanations are to why they are so wrong:
Myth 1: There's really a cure to HIV and Magic doesn't have HIV anymore because of it.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard this one! And I get it, because of the Tuskegee experiments, forced sterilizations of Black women and the unauthorized use of Henrietta Lacks' cervical cancer cells to name a few, I can understand why so many of us are eager to believe that our government has a cure and is withholding it from us.
But, Magic Johnson has HIV and he is not cured of it, because there is no cure as of yet. Let’s hope that one day there is one.
Myth 2: "Down-low" men are the reason why HIV/AIDS is so prevalent in the Black community.
Thanks to pop culture and ill-informed journalism, this generation's boogie man — the "down-low" brother — has been blamed for why AIDS is the number-one killer among black women. Too bad it's not true.
Now, no one is saying that there are not closeted gay black men — but mounds of studies suggest that the "down-low" is not what is fueling HIV in the Black community. It only accounts for a small number of infections. Here's a taste of some of the factors that fuel HIV in our community: Having unprotected vaginal and anal sex with multiple partners or even one partner; high rates of incarceration that take men out of the mating pool and create a system of women sharing the same man; intravenous drug use; untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as herpes and gonorrhea, which make people more vulnerable to contracting HIV once exposed to the virus; and people having unprotected sex, unaware that they are positive, who are going untreated while highly infectious.
Myth 3: It's not the virus that kills you — it’s the medicines.
Back in the early days of the epidemic, AZT, also known as zidovudine (Retrovir), was practically the only treatment out there for people living with HIV/AIDS. Yes, there were serious side effects, which made people appear to be sicker than they were before they took the meds. But thanks to better dosing and learning how to minimize side effects, numerous studies have found that these medicines have saved people and prolonged their lives.
But like most medicines out there that people take for other illnesses, long-term use of AIDS medicines may cause other health problems such as renal failure and heart-related issues, to name a few. We definitely need more research that tracks the effects of being on these drugs.
BET Health News — We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world.
(Photo: REUTERS/Eric Thayer)