HIV/AIDS: Myths and Facts




HIV is spread only in the following ways:

  • By having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an HIV positive person.
  • By sharing needles or syringes with an HIV positive person.
  • During pregnancy, birth or breast-feeding from an infected mother to her baby.
  • Through transfusion of blood from an HIV positive person.


Body fluids of an infected person that spread HIV are:

  • Semen
  • Vaginal fluid
  • Blood
  • Breast milk


  • HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
  • AIDS is the result of HIV infection.
  • HIV infection can be prevented.
  • HIV is not spread through casual social contact.

Statement Myth or Fact

Fact: HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.
Myth: You can get HIV by drinking from a glass used by someone who has HIV.
Myth: HIV is spread by kissing.
Myth: You can get HIV from giving blood.
Fact: Someone who has HIV, but looks and feels healthy can still infect other people.
Myth: You can tell by looking at someone if they have HIV/AIDS.
Fact: Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of getting HIV.
Fact: Sharing needles to inject drugs can spread HIV.
Fact: Using a latex condom during sex can reduce the risk of getting HIV.
(Some people say that condoms do not give much protection against AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. This is not true. A condom gives a lot of protection if it is used properly.)Myth: Taking birth control pills can protect a woman from getting HIV.
Myth: You can get HIV from a toilet seat.
Myth: Most people who get infected with HIV become seriously ill within three years.
(In fact, after a person is infected with HIV, there is usually no change in that person’s health for quite a few years. The person feels well, is able to work as before and shows no signs of being sick. This period is normally around 10 years, with an average range of some 8 to 12 years in length. Rarely, a person can begin to show evidence of the infection as early as 5 years after the infection.)

Myth: People with HIV/AIDS should be sent away from the community.(In fact, people living with HIV/AIDS need love, support and proper health care from their families and others.)
Myth: Vaccination can protect people from HIV infection.
Fact: AIDS is a syndrome that has no cure.

To stop HIV/AIDS from spreading, people must:

  • Have safe sex using a condom.
  • Always practise safe sex.
  • Have one sex partner only.
  • Make sure their partner is not having sex with anyone else.


Adapted from the “Uniformed Services HIV/AIDS Peer Leadership Guide,” produced by Family Health International (Arlington, Virginia, USA) in collaboration with the Uniformed Services Task Force (Africa, Asia, North America, Europe). The first draft of the Guide was published in 2001.