Over the next few issues we'll explore a number of myths that arise during Rolling Positive HIV/AIDS/STI/TB workshops.
The first myth is that AIDS kills. This results from a misunderstanding of how the HI-Virus destroys the immune system that, over a period of years, allows various opportunistic infections to attack aperson with HIV as a result of their impaired immune system. The "I" in HIVstands for "immunodeficiency." Immunodeficiency(or immune deficiency) is a state in which the immune system (the body's defence system) is compromised, orentirely absent, and is unable to fight infectious diseases.
One of the most common opportunistic infections in South Africa is TB - 30% to 50% of HIV-infected people die of it. However, with anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), people with the HI-Virus can live long, healthy lives.
The second myth is that ARVs are harmful and can kill you. ARVs are essential for the treatment and management of HIV/AIDS. There are no other options. ARVs may have some side effects, and some HIV patients may feel unwell for a short period of time when they first start taking ARVs. This does not occur in every case and it will pass with time. Claims that ARVs make you more ill than the disease itself are incorrect. People taking ARVs who make these claims may have started ARVs too late allowing other opportunistic infections to set in. A recent international study in Uganda showed that people with HIV on ARVs now live almost as long as those who are HIV negative.
The third myth is that tuberculosis (TB) and HIV are the same infection. TB and HIV are two different infections. TB is a bacterial organism that has been around for thousands of years where as the HI-Viruswas discovered less than 30 years ago. If untreated both cause untold suffering and death. HIV clinicians have observed that many HIV patients develop TB. From1 April 2012 HIV and TB patients will be treated in the same health unit.