Addressing Myths

Mythbusters!

Is Jasper the STI capital of Canada?
This is a common misconception, however, it is not the case. The reasons for this belief are based on a few true facts, which are that Alberta does have the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections in the country and the highest rates are among young adults between the ages of 15 and 24. Jasper has a large population of young adults, larger than any other age group in the community. HIV West Yellowhead also promotes testing every-which-where so this can add to the perception that STIs are common as well as increases the number of people getting tested – which means more positive tests.

Can I get HIV from kissing an HIV-infected person?
Pucker up! Contact through casual kissing does not put anyone at risk for infection. There are no known cases of someone contracting HIV through saliva.

Can I get HIV from a mosquito?
You only have to worry about the itch! HIV cannot be transmitted by a mosquito. Even if the virus enters a mosquito or another sucking or biting insect, it cannot reproduce in insects. Since the insect cannot be infected with HIV, it cannot transmit HIV to the next human it feeds on or bites.

Can you tell someone has HIV just by looking at them?
You cannot tell if someone has HIV or AIDS by just looking at them. A person infected with HIV may look healthy and feel good, but they can still pass the virus to you. A blood test is the only way a person can find out if he or she is infected with HIV. A person can live with the virus for 10 years or more without any obvious symptoms.

Does HIV only affect homosexuals and people who use drugs?
No. Anyone who has unprotected sex, shares injecting equipment, or has a transfusion with contaminated blood can become infected with HIV. Infants can be infected with HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, during labour or after delivery through breastfeeding.
Ninety per cent of HIV cases are the result of sexual transmission and 60-70% of HIV cases occur among heterosexuals.

Can I have more than one sexually transmitted infection at a time?
Yes, you can have more than one sexually transmitted infection (STI) at the same time. Each infection requires its own treatment. You cannot become immune to STIs. You can catch the same infection over and over again. Many men and women do not see or feel any early symptoms when they first become infected with an STI, however, they can still infect their sexual partner.

Can you get HIV from oral sex?
It’s true that oral sex is less risky than some other types of sex. But you can get HIV by having oral sex with either a man or a woman who is HIV-positive. There are also several STIs that can be transmitted through oral sex such as chlamydia, genital herpes, and syphilis. Always use a latex barrier during oral sex such as a dental dam.

If I have HIV, am I able to safely get pregnant and have a baby?
You bet! A woman who knows about her HIV infection early in pregnancy and is treated has a less than one percent chance of having a baby with HIV. Without treatment, this risk is about 25 percent in Canada. All pregnant women are tested for HIV. After the baby is born, the mother does not breastfeed her baby because that is another way to pass the virus. It is possible to become pregnant with a partner that is HIV negative through artificial insemination.

If I have HIV and I am receiving treatment, can I still pass on the virus?
Anti-retroviral therapy does keep viral load down to undetectable levels so that a person is less likely to pass on the virus, however, it does not prevent an infected person from passing on the virus to others completely. HIV is still present in the body and can be transmitted to others through sexual contact, by sharing injecting equipment, or by mothers breastfeeding their infants, so the same precautions are taken as a person who is not on treatment.

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