HIV Is Not As Scary As We Think

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For those affected by the HIV data leak, the past few days must have been tormenting for them. Imagine sitting around and waiting for repercussions to hit in full force. Those affected have said that they are now afraid that they might lose their jobs if their employers find out that they are HIV positive. While MOM has said it is unlawful to dismiss anyone based on their HIV status, a HR director in the hospitality industry divulged that she would sack a HIV positive employee if he or she is handling food.

Another one of those affected lamented that he is worried that he might run into issues with his insurance coverage. His current policies might be impacted, and he would most likely have difficulty buying new policies in future. Beyond these, there is also the emotional impact of the leak. These HIV positive individuals might be shunned by friends and family, or face discrimination by society in general. Many people think that HIV positive individuals lead questionable lifestyles such as indulging in casual sex or homosexual activities. Most also have the misconception that HIV can spread easily like the common cold.

Before society at large gets overly jittery about living among these HIV positive individuals, we should first get our facts straight about HIV. Here are few of the common beliefs about HIV:

1. HIV is only transmitted through sex.

While HIV can spread through unprotected sex with a HIV-positive individual, it can also spread through non-sexual contact and means, as certain body fluids like blood and breast milk can transmit the virus as well. This means that the virus can be passed through the sharing of needles, receiving tainted blood transfusions or from a HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.

2. HIV spreads easily.

HIV does not spread through social contact like touching, kissing and hugging, as the virus does not survive long outside the human body. This makes HIV less contagious than the common cold. There are also drugs which HIV positive individuals can take to suppress the virus, thus making them less likely to pass on the virus to another person.

3. HIV only affects homosexuals.

According to the Ministry of Health’s statistics, 90 per cent of HIV infections in Singapore occur through sexual intercourse, but 60 per cent of these infections arise from heterosexual intercourse.

4. HIV will end in death.

While it is true that HIV cannot be cured, advances in medical treatment means that those infected are now living longer, healthier lives than when the virus first emerged in the early 1980s.

With advanced treatment, the lifespan and quality of life of an infected person can be drastically improved to be on par with that of someone without the virus, said Action for Aids, an advocacy group based in Singapore.

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