AIDS: the most stubborn myths
In Quebec, approximately 17,500 people are living with HIV.
Forty years after the start of the epidemic that claimed the lives of many people, myths and misconceptions about AIDS still exist. On the occasion of World AIDS Day, Métro disentangles fact from fiction.
“HIV and AIDS are the same thing” < /h2>
No. Obviously, the two terms are related, but if the acronyms are different, it is because they do not designate the same thing. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that weakens the immune system. AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is the fourth stage of HIV worsening.
“If you have HIV and don't take any treatment, the virus will replicate and attack the immune system to the point where it can no longer defend itself. We can then reach a stage where the body is susceptible to developing opportunistic diseases that can cause death and this stage is called AIDS. Cases of AIDS are very rare today in Canada,” summarizes Gabriel Daunais-Laurin, intervention development coordinator at the Rézo organization, which does prevention work with gay, bisexual, trans and cis men.
HIV in Quebec
- About 17,500 people are currently living with HIV in Quebec
- In 2020, there were 212 new contaminations including:
- 54% gay, bisexual, or men who have sex with men;
- 21% from countries where HIV is endemic; < /li>
- 16% heterosexual people not from countries where HIV is endemic ;
- 6% people who inject drugs (IDU).
According to INSPQ figures dating back to 2021.
“To be HIV-positive is to be contagious .se”
It depends. Very concretely, being HIV-positive means having a positive result on a test that detects HIV. What determines whether you are contagious or not is the viral load, that is to say the number of copies of the virus that you have in your blood.
“Several studies have shown that a person who has HIV, but who takes his treatments and maintains an undetectable viral load [or below 200 copies/ml of blood] cannot transmit the virus to his sexual partners. .s. It's the rule of I=I, undetectable = intransmissible”, reports Gabriel Daunais-Laurin.
“PReP: the miracle solution”
PReP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) has proven effective for HIV-negative people who want to prevent HIV infection. It is therefore a means of prevention to be used before sexual activity and which is available by prescription in Quebec and is covered in part by the RAMQ.
“On the other hand, it does not protect against other STBBIs and it only works if you take it before sexual intercourse,” explains Gabriel. If you think you have been exposed to the virus, there is another treatment, PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) which must be started within 72 hours of exposure to the virus to be effective. If in doubt, it is therefore best to consult a health professional as soon as possible to assess the risk of HIV transmission.”
“Oral sex c 'is risky'
No risk does not exist. That said, unless one has an injury to the mouth, the risk of catching or transmitting HIV through oral sex is extremely low.
“Some people prefer however, also use a condom or a dental dam to be sure of being protected and this is not a bad thing when you consider the other STBBIs”, recalls Gabriel Daunais-Laurin.
“In 2022, we live very well with HIV”
Yes and no. As just explained, HIV is treatable and can be kept at an undetectable level whereas a few decades ago it was impossible to control and it led to death.
< p>“From a medical point of view, although there may be complications or side effects, overall we can say that yes, if you take your treatment every day, it is possible to live with the disease. HIV in Canada. On the other hand, it must be taken into account that HIV also has important psychosocial consequences. You can live with stigma and it's not easy to bear, ”qualifies the coordinator at Rézo.
Another aspect, since 2012, HIV-positive people are legally obliged to inform their sexual partners that they have HIV before having sex. “People living with HIV can therefore face criminal charges. In 2021, Canada was the fifth country in the world with the highest number of legal proceedings related to the non-disclosure of HIV status,” said Gabriel Daunais-Laurin.