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Facts Speak: 6 Myths About HIV You Need to Stop Believing

It’s been more than four years but Cassandra still remembers how her hands were shaking when she got the sealed envelope that contained her HIV results. 

"My Facebook org had organised an HIV testing activity and a bunch of us were getting tested. My then-boyfriend and I signed up. It was supposed to be no big deal," says the 30-year-old media communications specialist.

Her anxiety began when she mentally ran through her se.xual past while waiting for her turn to get tested.
Stop Believing Some HIV Myths 

"I’d been having sex since I was 17, and since then I think I had slept with about 12 or 13 guys." Her test results came out negative. Cassandra was relieved; she had dodged a bullet—this time.

Here are HIV misconceptions that could be putting your life at risk:

'HIV is old news'
Philippines is grappling with a growing HIV epidemic that has been described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the fastest growing in the world. It was 1984 when the country reported its first HIV case. 

In just the last five years, HIV cases have almost quadrupled, totaling more than 30,356. The Department of Health (DOH) forecasts that total HIV infections could reach 133,000 by 2022 if this current trend continues. 

'Only gay guys get HIV'
"From 2013-2015, there was a steep rise in HIV prevalence among 15-to-24-year-olds, mostly men. But we know that some of these men have both male and female sex partners—and that puts women at risk," says Dr. Genesis Samonte, who heads the DOH section that monitors HIV infection rates.

"A lot of those I’ve counselled at the clinic are what we refer to as 'MSM' or men who have sex with men. They have s.ex with both men and women. Some are exploring or experimenting, others just want to," adds Hapitan.

'But I’m on the pill'
The pill does not protect against STIs, only condoms can. Hapitan also cautions that "pulling out," a favored but highly unreliable birth control method, does not provide protection from pregnancy or STIs. "You can get an STI like HIV from pre-ejaculation fluid," says Hapitan.

'But I’m too shy to ask him to wear condoms'
Usually, women aren’t that great at having "the condom talk" with a se.x partner.

"Girls get stuck when it comes to insisting on condoms. We’re embarrassed; we’re worried about what the guy will think or about losing the guy if we insist on condoms. That really needs to change," Hapitan says.

Condoms should be like lipstick, you never leave home without it. "Always be prepared. Don’t wait for him to bring up condoms. Insist on it," she stresses.

“But he comes from a good family and he’s educated. He can’t possibly have HIV' 
HIV infections in urban areas like Metro Manila and Cebu have breached what the DOH and the United Nations have referred to as a "5%” threshold."

HIV does not discriminate and the numbers are telling.

"The physical map of the people with HIV is now big enough that any woman who is sexually active and does not use protection is potentially at risk for STIs and HIV," stresses Samonte.

'But I’m not a sl.ut'
Today, dating apps like Tinder have made hooking up so much easier that sometimes "sleeping around a lot" becomes very subjective.

"There is a common misconception that you cannot get HIV if you don’t have sex a lot. Truth us, you can get HIV even if you have unprotected s.ex only once." - Online Sources 

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