Updated 17 August 2018

Myths about HIV/AIDS

Unfortunately, many HIV/AIDS myths are still circulating.


It’s important to realise that you cannot get infected through:

  • Mosquito and other insect bites 
  • Urine or sweat 
  • Public toilets, saunas, showers, gym equipment, swimming pools or water fountains
  • Sharing towels, linen or clothing
  • Going to school with, socialising or working with HIV-positive people 
  • Sharing cutlery or crockery 
  • Sneezes or coughs 
  • Touching, hugging, shaking hands with or dry kissing a person with HIV 
  • (Sexual) contact with animals (HIV is strictly a human virus and isn’t carried by animals) 
  • Breathing the same air as someone who has HIV

Other myths that continue to circulate include: 

“I’m HIV-positive – my life is over.”
FACT: Thanks to ART, people with HIV can now live long and productive lives.

“I would be able to tell if my partner is HIV-positive.” 
FACT: It’s impossible to look at someone and know whether they have HIV. Many people don’t show symptoms for years. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.

“Male circumcision prevents HIV.”
FACT: Circumcision lowers the risk of female-to-male sexual transmission of HIV by about 60%. However, it does not prevent HIV.

“I can get cured if I have sex with a virgin.”
FACT: There is no cure for HIV/AIDS.

“I can get cured if I have sex with someone who is HIV-negative.” 
FACT: In all likelihood you’ll infect your partner. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS.

“If I test for HIV while I’m taking ART and my result is negative, it means that I am HIV-negative.” 
FACT: Being on any form of ART will give a false-negative result. You are still HIV-positive.

“If I have HIV, I can’t have a baby.”
FACT: It’s possible to have a baby with HIV, as long as your viral load is suppressed for at least six months prior to conception and it remains suppressed. 

If your partner is HIV-positive and you’re HIV-negative, there are ways in which natural conception can occur without condoms, as well as other ways of getting pregnant. This is also the case if you’re HIV-negative and your partner is HIV-positive, or if you’re both HIV-positive. 

Talk to your healthcare provider about how this can be achieved.

Read more
What is HIV/AIDS?

Reviewed by Dr Pooja Balani, MBBS (UK). Medical Technical Advisor at the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society. March 2018.


Ask the Expert

HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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