People with HIV Debunk Common Myths and Stereotypes

“You do not know if someone is living with HIV just by looking at them.”

Loading the player...

Thanks to science, better education, and advocacy efforts, people with HIV face less stigma than they did a couple decades ago. Still, misinformation is hard to stamp out, and some myths and stereotypes about HIV still exist.

It’s important to understand the truth about HIV. When more people have access to accurate information, it benefits everyone. That includes a better understanding of how HIV spreads, how you can reduce the risk, how to access treatment, and how effective treatment is. This not only improves everyone’s safety by reducing the spread, but it may also help ease the stigma against people with HIV.

Common Myths About HIV

It’s a myth that HIV is a death sentence.

“It’s not a death sentence anymore. You can still experience love. You can still pursue your dreams.”

—Kineen Mafa, diagnosed with HIV in 2003

“You can live a fruitful, fulfilling life with the diagnosis because there’s antiretroviral medication today that can keep your virus at bay so you will be virally suppressed, and you can live a normal, happy life like anybody else.”

—Thamicha Isaac, diagnosed with HIV in 2003

Learn more about antiretroviral therapy for HIV here.

It’s a myth that HIV is caused by promiscuity.

“When [HIV] first came out, [people] said, ‘Oh, he was promiscuous, she was promiscuous. They got what they deserved.’ I wasn’t promiscuous. I contracted HIV from my first lover.”

—Jarvis Hall, diagnosed with HIV in 1984-85

“HIV is nothing to be ashamed of because it’s not a moral failing. HIV is an illness, just like any other illness.”

—Reginald Brown, diagnosed with HIV in 1986

It’s a myth that only gay men get HIV.

“The H in HIV stands for human … HIV’s a virus, and viruses need hosts. At any given time, each and every one of us can become one of those hosts and transmit HIV unknowingly.”

—Thamicha Isaac, diagnosed with HIV in 2003

It’s a myth that you can tell who has HIV by their appearance.

“You do not know if someone is living with HIV just by looking at them. The best and only way for you to know for sure is for you to get tested.”

—Thamicha Isaac, diagnosed with HIV in 2003

It’s a myth that people with HIV can’t have healthy sex lives.

“HIV is not something that is automatically transmitted when you have sex. There are a variety of different factors that are in play, [and] viral suppression and preventative measures do a really great job at eliminating transmission.”

Richard Walsh, diagnosed with HIV in 2012

Learn more about sex with an undetectable viral load with HIV here.

It’s a myth that having HIV will drastically change your life.

“HIV has actually less of an impact on your life now than diseases that have been being treated for years. Diabetes is actually more impactful [on your life] now than HIV is.”

—Darnell White, diagnosed with HIV in 1994

It’s a myth that if you have HIV and get pregnant, you will pass it on to your children.

“If you are HIV positive and you wanted to become pregnant, you can. [You] can have a healthy baby that will be HIV negative if you just do what you’re supposed to do. I was able to give birth to two children who are HIV negative because of me adhering to my medication and because of how far the science [has] come for women living with HIV.’

—Thamicha Isaac, diagnosed with HIV in 2003

Struggling with myths, stereotypes, or stigma against HIV?