Mythbusting the HIV stigma

By Barrett White


If you’re unsure how HIV is spread, or how to prevent it, you’re not alone. Is AIDS the same thing as HIV? Is there a cure for AIDS? We took these common questions, beliefs, and misconceptions into consideration and created this handy mythbusters guide to HIV/AIDS with the help of Legacy’s VP of Public Health Services, Amy Leonard; Legacy’s Associate Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Charlene Flash; and the CDC.


Myth: AIDS and HIV are the same, and the terms can be used interchangeably.

Busted: HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) refers to the infection, as well as the virus itself. If left untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), the final and most advanced stage of HIV. “Most people living with HIV—who are on treatment and receiving care—do not advance to AIDS and achieve normal life expectancy,” Leonard says, “Additionally, these days, ‘AIDS’ is a term mostly reserved for health care providers surveilling the epidemic, and not by individuals living with HIV.”


Myth: You can acquire HIV from kissing someone who is living with HIV.

Busted: False. HIV is not transmitted via saliva. HIV is transmittable by four bodily fluids—blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.


Myth: You can acquire HIV from oral sex.

Busted: This is mostly false. When it comes to oral sex, the chance for transmission is nearly impossible—unless the person performing the oral sex has open sores in their mouth, such as a cold sore, cut, or bleeding gums. Through the open sores, this person could acquire the virus from a HIV+ insertive partner, or vice versa. The risk is also increased if oral sex is being performed on someone who is HIV+ and menstruating.


Myth: There is a cure for HIV.

Busted: Unfortunately, there is not. However, medicine has advanced well past what it was during the height of the AIDS crisis. If taken daily and consistently, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can prevent the transmittance of the virus by over 90%. Leonard adds, “A person living with HIV is capable of living a completely normal life with proper medical care.”


According to the Houston Health Department, 1 in 200 Houstonians is living with HIV. Prevention is key—if you are unsure of your HIV status, we strongly suggest you get tested. Book an appointment or walk in to one of our Legacy clinics and get tested with zero judgment. Our testing is quick and free for high-risk individuals.

Legacy is committed to ending the HIV epidemic in Houston through public health education, legislative and grassroots advocacy, and coalition building.